New data reveals over 200 million children don’t have a toilet at school – leaving girls no way of managing their period

Over 400 million children globally lack decent toilets at school according to brand new data from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF ’s Joint Monitoring Programme – this means either toilets don’t work, girls and boys are forced to share facilities – even when girls are on their periods – or there’s no toilet at all. Meanwhile just over half of this number, 220 million, don’t have a toilet at school at all. In Sub Saharan Africa alone, 50% of schools have inadequate toilets. 

This is having a huge and negative impact on girls says the international charity WaterAid. Evidence shows that a lack of decent toilets and running water leads to some girls missing school during their period. 

These new figures, published recently on Period Day, underscore a shocking lack of support to help girls effectively manage their periods during their education, says WaterAid.  

This issue is a key priority for the charity WaterAid which works to bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to communities and schools in 22 countries across the world. This includes providing menstrual health products and building female-friendly toilets with clean running water in schools.

But today’s new figures unveil the harsh reality that much more still needs to be done to ensure girls can manage their periods in a hygienic way, with privacy, safety and dignity.

Katherine Nightingale, Director of International Affairs at WaterAid, said: 

“No one should have to miss school because of their period, and it’s unacceptable that 400 million children globally lack decent toilets at school and 200 million of these don’t have toilets at all, leaving girls without a way to manage their period.  Clean water and decent toilets in schools must be non-negotiable to ensure women and girls can manage their menstruation safely, hygienically, and with dignity.

“WaterAid is calling on governments to prioritize these needs by ensuring access to female-friendly, private, and hygienic toilets in schools, as well as clean water and period products. These are fundamental human rights that will help girls to complete their education, creating a ripple effect of positive change across communities and societies.”

In Nepal, WaterAid is mid-way through a project called ‘Thirst for Knowledge’, bringing clean water, decent toilets and hygiene lessons to 33 schools in the Bardyia district. A key focus is to help girls to stay in school by providing resources, like single sex toilets, to help them manage their period. In this district figures show there’s a marked disparity in drop-out rates for girls – 15.5% compared to 2.1% for boys between the ages of 11 and 15 – coinciding with the time when girls start menstruating.

Young people have been at the forefront of WaterAid’s efforts to spread the message about the importance of cleanliness and in particular menstrual health and managing periods safely hygienically. A 16 year old, teenage boy, Arun, who lives in Bardyia, has become a champion for improving menstrual health at his school. He’s helping to educate his local community and even convinced his mother to join in spreading the word. Arun’s mother Laxmi is now a community health worker focusing on better menstrual health for women and girls.

Laxmi says: “He (Arun) has learnt so many things about menstruation which I did not know. He makes suggestions to me and his sister about what to do and what not to do. We have also learned a lot from him, and we also share our learnings with others in the neighbourhood.” 

Arun says: “It’s important because it happens to all mothers and sisters. Girls feel shy and they laugh when I talk about it. I tell them not to see it negatively – it’s a natural process. After we go to school, we share this information among friends, and they discuss it at home, sharing with their mothers, who then share it with their neighbours, within their families, and throughout the village.” 

This is one story among many of how WaterAid is working in communities to break down the stigma surrounding periods, working to ensure that everyone who menstruates – whoever they are, and wherever they live in the world – are able to manage their period in a hygienic way and dignified way. WaterAid is calling on global governments to prioritise menstrual health in policies, programmes and related budgets so women and girls get the support they need. 

Related posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.