WHY WASH MATTERS

Women & girls

In many developing countries, the responsibility for collecting water and washing falls on women and girls. The time spent collecting water limits opportunities for women to access education or earn a living. Women and girls can also be subject to ‘sexploitation’ if they can’t afford water from private sellers.

Meanwhile, a lack of hygienic, safe toilets in urban communities and schools makes it hard for women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene needs, forcing girls to miss school during menstruation – or to drop out altogether. In addition, using public toilets – often without locks and lighting – can also be very unsafe for women, particularly at night.

WSUP ensures all our water and toilet facilities meet the specific needs of women and girls, and that women are included at all stages of the decision-making processes.

CASE STUDY

Bithi, Chattogram, Bangladesh

“I feel happy and much more confident with these positive changes in my life.”

Bithi’s parents passed away when she was young, so she and her brother were raised by their uncle’s family, in the Maingate community, in Chattogram, Bangladesh. At 16, Bithi lived with seven family members, including her brother, uncle, aunt, and cousins.

Bithi had her first period at the age of 12 when she did not have prior knowledge about it. As a result, her first experience with menstruation was frightening. Bithi’s cousins assisted her in navigating the situation, but Bithi’s family did not have their own toilet and had to share a common, unhygienic facility with other families. This shared toilet was in an extremely poor state, lacking proper hygiene, lighting, privacy, and security.

A WSUP project was launched in Chattogram in 2020, with funding from VF Corporation, to address issues faced by local women and girls like Bithi. She learned a lot from menstrual hygiene management (MHM) sessions that WSUP organised and implemented her new knowledge in her routine, occasionally seeking information from WSUP representatives.

As part of the project, WSUP built a toilet facility to serve 35 people from 10 families, including hers. It was designed with women’s needs in mind, featuring running water, secure doors with locks, separate female chambers, proper lighting, and waste bins. Bithi and other local girls started to handle menstruation-related matters in a cleaner environment and without fear. “I’m very grateful for WSUP for the knowledge I’ve gained from the MHM sessions, particularly regarding what we should and should not do during menstruation”, Bithi says.

Bithi now shares her knowledge with her friends and younger girls in her family. She has come to understand that menstruation is a natural phenomenon in every woman’s life and not a cause for panic or distress. “I feel happy and much more confident with these positive changes in my life.”