More than 50 percent of all primary schools in developing countries lack access to adequate water and sanitation facilities. On top of that, nearly two-thirds of all primary schools lack gender-specific toilets. These two statistics alone highlight why education for girls is an issue; young women all over the world are dropping out of school and missing educational opportunities due to sanitation options.
According to Sameer Pathak, a senior manager of communications for Coca-Cola India and the head of Support My Schools, “Lack of functional sanitation leads to accelerated dropout of girls. When girls enter puberty, it becomes an affront to their dignity to defecate in public. And one in five will drop out.”
This problem should be easy to fix; however, very few consider access to water and proper sanitation integral when addressing the low levels of education in the poorest parts of the world. Access to water or a proper toilet in schools can be the game-changing factor for a girl looking to complete even the most basic educational levels.
Girls who attend schools without water and sanitation facilities can miss up to 40 days of class due to menstruation in a single academic year. Forty days of missed school leaves them at a total disadvantage and hinders their ability to achieve their full potential scholastically and beyond.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear in his Aug. 14, 2014, Independence Day address that all schools must have separate facilities for girls within the year.
Clean water, private toilets and good hygiene in schools constitute the greatest opportunity to bring about change and transformation for young girls and their right to a proper education.
Education for girls should not be hindered by toilets. “The most important impact of this is to actually bring the community together, to educate the public and teach the communities,” said Pathak.
– Keaton McCalla