International Day of the Girl is an important observance by the United Nations to recognise the basic needs of girls, acknowledge their rights, and highlight the unique challenges that they face.

In the field of global water and sanitation poverty, girls living in the world’s poorest communities face challenges every day – starting with the task of collecting water for their family.

Typically, it’s the women and girls of the family who walk for water each day whilst the men are at work, often during school hours when it is cool or the water point is less busy. The average walk for (often dirty) water is 3.7 miles a day and an average walk usually returns a 20L jerry can of water.

A woman and her young baby collecting water from an open water source
A woman and her young baby collecting water from an open water source

Aside from this, and the obvious financial struggles that stop children living below the poverty line from attending school, expectations for girls to stay at home in order to learn domestic skills and prepare for marriage and children are also still apparent in some communities.

The girls who do make it to school are faced with unique challenges of their own. For example, inadequate sanitation and toilet facilities in schools – as well as not being able to afford sanitary wear – often results in girls having to stay at home when they are on their menstrual period at the expense of their education.

At The One Foundation, we’re passionate about funding water and sanitation projects that deliver lasting change, improving the lives of people – including women and girls – forever.

For example, this year in Naivasha, we’ve funded rainwater harvesting systems, toilet blocks and hygiene campaigns in 10 schools. The toilet blocks alone in Mai Mahui School – now providing one toilet per class and a sanitation block, to replace the 1 toilet block shared between 700+ pupils – have seen attendance rates in girls increase and pass rates improve. David, the school’s Headmaster, proudly told us this month that they are now the top performing primary school in the region, which he attributes to the huge improvement in girls attendance and ability to learn.

Toilet block at Mai Mahui School
The new toilet blocks at Mai Mahui School in Naivasha have enabled girls to attend school whilst they are on their menstrual period

Similarly, in Rwanda, The One Foundation has invested in sanitation and hygiene improvements and education in schools. Girls play integral roles in School Hygiene and Sanitation Committees, where students are educated and then responsible for the maintenance of their school’s water and sanitation infrastructures.

Because of such infrastructure, girls during their menstrual periods can now comfortably attend classes because they have a changing room with all the basic equipment they need; a jerry can with water, basin, towel and sanitary pads.

Bernadine, who is part of her school’s committee told us: “The number of students missing classes or dropping out has reduced.”

Girls at Mai Mahui School
The One Foundation is committed to improving the lives of women and girls in communities and schools across the world.

The One Foundation is committed to improving the lives of women and girls in communities like Bernadine’s. As well as continuing to invest in the most sustainable projects that deliver a lasting impact, we will continue to invest in programmes that we hope will help to support and empower the next generation – and future generations – of girls to fulfil their potential. Find out more on our project pages and consider donating today.