Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Can a separate toilet educate girls?

It might sound strange to many of us that having separate toilets play a major role in improving the attendance level of girl students in schools. Does a toilet really have that much influence on the lives of girls? The answer to this question is yes.  A recent study has revealed lack of separate toilets for girls lead to absenteeism, which ultimately led to girls dropping out of school.

I used to hate going to school when I had my period. Although I studied in a reputed school in Kathmandu, it had common toilets for both boys and girls. The toilets lacked proper dustbins to dispose of the napkins used, moreover I would feel scared and embarrassed that boys in my class would find out that I was menstruating.  It really distracted me from concentrating on what was being taught by my teachers.

My prayers were answered when I went to the UK for my Bachelors degree. I was amazed to find that not only did my university in London  have separate toilets for boys and girls, it also had a separate changing room facility for girls and women that consisted of machines that dispensed sanitary towels when you entered 20p. This service was not only limited to my university but everywhere I went in the UK  - shopping malls, libraries, restaurants and cafes. I never felt uncomfortable throughout my stay there. The separate toilets and changing facilities provided me privacy and a sense of security unlike my experience in Nepal.

I guess this is what differentiates developing countries and developed countries. May be because our society is still a patriarchal society, when priorities are established, the interests of women and girls are often poorly represented. Even in today’s day and age, most people in Nepal are still unaware about the needs of girls and the issues they face in events such as these.

However, all hope is not lost. People have slowly started to realise the importance of gender friendly toilets and a few initiatives have been taken. Vishwa Niketan school has constructed separate toilets for boys and girls. Not only this, it has also started a student group that helps girls by providing sanitary napkins when they need it and they can pay for it later. Similarly, Kanya school has also constructed separate toilets for boys and girls. The results of both these campaigns have been very positive. The Nepal’s Ministry of Education has also set aside a budget of Rs. 200 000 to each school for the construction of toilets.

All these initiatives are stepping stones in improving attendance in schools and promoting education among girls. These ideas should be replicated all over Nepal, in order to spread light on the importance of having separate toilets for boys and girls.

We have still a long way to go, we can at least have separate gender friendly toilets that will enhance a sense of privacy, and will reduce embarrassment among girl students. Let us not let any girl miss out on education and countless opportunities because of lack of separate toilets.


Absolutely - a toilet can mean the difference!

Smritee, thanks for your blog sharing your personal experience. Without a safe and private place to go to the bathroom, a school can actually be more dangerous than beneficial especially for girls. 

FANSA members are doing a lot of work to get toilets in schools. I hope someone will share that work here... 

 

Thanks for sharing

Thanks for sharing

thank you

Dear Kolleen,

I am glad that you read my artilce and liked it. I hope FANSA keeps up the good work that it's doing and help empower girls to study. 

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