by Amobichukwu Chukwudi Amanambu
Next to air, water is the most important natural resource to humans. Water availability and proper sanitation are essential to protect children’s health and their ability to learn at school. There is an interesting close relationship between water supply and sanitation. Any school that requires proper sanitation must have a stable source of water. In this light, one may regard water sources like taps and wells as examples of sanitation facilities.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines sanitation as “the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces” (Water Services Trust Fund [WSTF], 2014). Water availability is not itself a facility; rather the structures such as taps, wells etc. that allow for the availability and accessibility of water can be referred to as facilities of sanitation.
These facilities are essential for proper sanitation in any institution. The provision of these facilities ensures accessibility of water and hence quality sanitation. This therefore means that, generally, for the proper disposal of human urine and faeces, there must be available and accessible water. This simple fact defines the strong relationship between water and sanitation.
Distance Decay as outlined by Getis (2008) and Location Theory as pointed out by Alfred Weber (1929) can be used to explain this intricate relationship. And their understanding vis-a-vis the pressing issue of sanitation is likely to lead to better welfare of students and an increase in the number of schooling girls, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WATER AND CHILD HEALTH
Water availability is inextricably connected to health and related issues. Millions of children die every year from water-borne diseases, and from a lack of hygiene and basic sanitation facilities (especially those ensuring water availability). According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 2013), globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoeal diseases and of these some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. The same source states that almost 90 per cent of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene.
CONCEPT OF DISTANCE–DECAY
Distance Decay is the experimental decline of an activity, function, or amount of interaction with increasing distance from the point of origin (Getis 1998). It explains the fact that there is a greater intensity (greater spatial interaction) in the use of facilities near the school area, especially the distance between the water source and the school building(s).
The facilities in the school include toilets, wells, boreholes, streams, taps and the school buildings. It is expected that the amount of water used to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation by the schools will depend on the distance between the major sources of water and other facilities that need water for proper sanitation and hygiene. For instance, toilets (and schools) that are closer to a water source are expected to use more of water for the maintenance of hygiene, hence they become the cleaner. Various uses of water by the schools will also vary with distance.
The location theory is concerned with the geographical location of activities or distributional patterns of activities in space. In the words of Alfred Weber (1929), “location theory includes the concern of solving optimization problems of choosing facility.” The theory rests on the assumption that agents act in their own self-interest. Thus, people choose locations that maximize their profits and individuals choose locations that maximize their utility.
Oyebande (1977) explained that the location theory, in addition to providing theoretical framework for analysing the location of water sources, also provides understanding for water usage. Location has a great impact on the overall maintenance of hygiene and sanitation. Expectedly, the ideal location for a water source should be central enough to permit maximum access to the potential users. The Sphere Project (2004) states, for instance, the need for all people to have a safe and equitable access to a sufficient quantity of water for hygiene. The closer one is to the water source, the more use is made of water. One must then submit that, in a practical application of this theory and for resource optimisation, a central location could be considered in the provision of boreholes, tap water etc. for secondary schools.
IMPACT OF WATER ON GIRL-CHILD EDUCATION
Water is arguably linked with quality sanitation, proper education and even gender equality. Girls who have to spend time gathering water for family use are likely not to be in schools; and where schools have proper sanitation, attendance for girls is usually higher (Kofi, 2004). Studies have shown that girls are more likely to enroll in schools – and stay enrolled – when they have a measure of protection and respect. Lack of appropriately private and sanitary facilities has a greater impact on girls, determining whether they ever attend and how long they stay in school.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, 2006), about 443 million school days are lost annually due to water-related illness and the lack of basic sanitation facilities. And in 2001, two-thirds of the 115 million primary school-aged children not attending school were girls (UNICEF, 2007).
UNICEF and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (2005) also agree that sanitation is a key factor in keeping girls in school. According to them, over half of the girls in sub-Saharan Africa who drop out of primary school do so because of poor water and sanitation facilities. Often, girls are forced to drop out of or miss school once they reach puberty and begin menstruation due to a lack of separate latrine facilities and sanitary supplies (UN Water, 2008).
One may thus conclude that an understanding of the relationship between water and sanitation, using the concepts of distance decay and location theory and the application of this to secondary school education, will ultimately give rise to better health in children and an increase in the number of children, girls especially, who attend schools particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Amobichukwu Chukwudi Amanambu
Water and Environmental Management, WEDC, Loughborough Leicestershire, UK.
State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Science.
Email Addresses: Jonesamanambu@yahoo.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Importance of Teachers in Girls' WASH Education: Success of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programs in West Bengal, India (a short essay)
by Mark Lotto
Of the 14 schools visited in West Bengal India in November 2016, Tiorkhali Nagendra Balika Vidyalaya high school had one of the best performing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs not only because of its maintained infrastructure but because of the impact the teachers had on the girls’ education. In this all-girls school high school in Purba Medinipur district of West Bengal, 100 girls between 10-15 years old cram into the school’s sparsely furnished classrooms. In addition to the standard curriculum of math, science, history and English, the girls also learn about the importance of clean drinking water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene. The girls come from poor farming families with often illiterate parents, and don’t have access to WASH facilities at home. Therefore, the school’s WASH program is the only opportunity for the girls to use appropriate sanitation facilities and learn about adequate hygiene practices. To cover the expenses of the WASH program throughout the year, students in West Bengal are expected to pay a small annual school fee. However, at Tiorkhali Nagendra, families are unable to pay the less than $5 USD annual fee. For the teachers responsible for the girls’ education and wellness, they didn’t let this lack of funding get in the way of a new WASH construction project.
INSTALLATION OF THE WASH PROGRAM
In 2014, the school’s teachers and administration secured the installation of much needed WASH facilities. A sanitation block of seven latrines was constructed, along with a system for feminine sanitary napkin disposal. A five-tap water station was built to provide clean drinking water and a place for the girls to wash their hands. A large tank was placed on top of the school to store ground water extracted with a submersible pump, providing water on demand.
Government financial support was inconsistently distributed, with schools receiving funds some years but not others, forcing the school to rely on other sources of capital. The Denver based non-governmental organization (NGO) Water for People funded nearly half of the project, while the school managed to fund the rest. The school had many other needs, but the value WASH infrastructure provided was worth the capital investment. With the facilities in place, it was up to the teachers to educate the girls on its importance and proper use.
IMPORTANCE OF TEACHERS
INSTITUTING WATSAN COMMITTEE
The most effective WASH education appears to occur when teachers empower girls to manage and maintain the WASH program themselves. A water and sanitation (WATSAN) committee of 12 girls was voted on by the students, and approved by the teachers. The WATSAN committee was tasked with ensuring the sanitation block was cleaned and maintained, and for fielding questions and complaints from other students. At Tiorkhali Nagendra Balika Vidyalaya, the WATSAN committee held meetings every two weeks. These meetings were even attended by the school’s over-taxed headmaster, a testament to the value of the program placed by the administration.
PROVIDING DAILY EDUCATION
In schools in West Bengal, it was standard practice for students to pray every day at meals. The teachers of Tiorkhali Nagendra Balika Vidyalaya capitalized on this opportunity when all of the students were gathered to teach about water, sanitation, and hygiene. This daily education was directly related to higher performing WASH programs. Schools that did not incorporate daily WASH education often had struggle WASH programs.
Another indicator of success during the survey was whether the teachers financially contributed to the WASH program. Students were expected to pay an annual school surcharge, or a monthly WASH fee, but not all schools required or expected the teachers to do so. When students paid a fee to the WASH program, there was a greater sense of program ownership. At Tiorkhali Nagendra Balika Vidyalaya, teachers often paid much more than a simple WASH fee. If there was a difference in the schools operating expenses and revenue, the teacher’s paid the difference. This practice sounds very foreign, but appeared to be common because the government often only funded teacher salaries, not school maintenance. In fact, teachers from about half of the schools surveyed paid into the school’s WASH program. In another school, the teachers pooled their money to pay for the school’s electric bill. The following year, the government paid the electric bill, and even refunded the teachers financial contribution from the previous year. The government payment however does not appear to be a standard across the other schools.
DISPLAYING ENTHUSIASM AND MOTIVATION
During the November survey, it became clear that schools with enthusiastic and motivated teachers had top performing WASH programs. One measurement of teacher enthusiasm and motivation was the number of teachers that participated in the WASH survey. The survey meetings were scheduled with the school’s headmaster, but often times teachers came into the headmaster’s office to participate in the survey and voice their opinions. Programs with only one or two teachers present at the time of the survey appeared to have poorer performing WASH programs. In contrast, schools with three or more teachers present during the survey tended to be better performing programs. During the discussions about the specific survey questions, responses were longer, more detailed, and the teachers seemed more enthusiastic and motivated when the number of teachers present was higher. For future surveys of this type, the number of teachers present at the time of survey should be measured. It was also noted that when teachers responded to more of the survey questions compared to the headmaster, the WASH programs seemed to be more successful. Teacher and headmaster responses should be measured in the future as an additional indicator of teacher motivation.
METRICS OF SUCCESS
REDUCED EMBARRASSMENT AND HIGH SATISFACTION RATES
After surveying 14 schools, teachers and headmasters at 100% of the schools reported that students were no longer embarrassed to use the bathroom in West Bengal. At Tiorkhali Nagendra Balika Vidyalaya, I asked the three teachers I spoke with whether the students were satisfied with the program. The teachers immediately and enthusiastically replied that yes, the students were extremely satisfied with the program. To emphasize their point, they interrupted the class next-door and asked the room of 20 high school girls if they were satisfied with the program. In a unison response, they replied enthusiastically, “yes, very satisfied!”.
DROP IN ABSENTEEISM
Another metric of success for schools’ WASH programs was the drop in a school’s student absentee rate. Illness due to poor hygiene was common for students at Tiorkhali Nagendra Balika Vidyalaya, with around 10% of the girls not present at school before the WASH program was installed. Since the program was started, the absenteeism rate was around 1-2%. Across the 14 schools surveyed, administrators reported an average drop of 7% in absenteeism since their WASH programs started.
ELEMENTS OF OTHER SUCCESSFUL WASH PROGRAMS
Teachers from other schools have implemented innovate programs to inspire and empower their students. One school’s WATSAN committee went out into the community 2 to 3 times per year to put on theater performances to teach about the importance of water and sanitation. At another school the teachers put on a wellness camp to teach about the importance of WASH, and also about healthy eating and physical exercise. Another school had women empowerment phrases artistically painted in its central hallway. Progress in girls’ WASH education was being made in rural India not because of the additional facilities in place, but because of the vigilance and enthusiasm of each school’s teachers.
by Brian Currinder
In a city of 17 million people, finding a bathroom shouldn’t be an issue, right? With 67 public toilets in the entire city (and a 2011 estimate counting five that actually worked), it is an all too apparent one in Dhaka, the capital and ever-growing megalopolis at the heart of Bangladesh. I hasten to add that these are not the gripes of a foreign traveler who ventured too far from his hotel or had to deal with temporary discomfort while sandwiched in gridlock traffic; rather, the lack of access to a functioning toilet is an everyday issue for many of those living in the city, and it carries serious social, health, and environmental consequences.
At any given time during the day, it is estimated that 2-3 million low-income workers are out on Dhaka’s streets, with little to no access to a toilet or sanitation facilities. Additionally, many of these workers go home to slum conditions with limited or even no toilet access – a bleak reality for at least one third of the city. While the lack of toilet accessibility is an affront for all affected, it is chiefly women who bear the brunt of the injustice. Unlike men, Bangladeshi women do not have the “privilege” to relieve themselves on the streets or use bathrooms in the local mosques. Instead, women usually have no other option but to break the cultural norm by using the streets, doing so at the expense of their safety and basic dignity. Pollution and social inequity are often measurable consequences of inadequate water and sanitary conditions; the loss of dignity is not.
Bangladesh’s water and sanitation issues that contribute to gender inequity are not toilet-centric – polluted surface water resources around the country have forced the majority of the populace to transition to cleaner, but not always potable, groundwater resources. However, deep tubewells that can access clean groundwater are often expensive to install and maintain, leaving across the countryside. For rural households without direct access to clean water, women are charged with gathering water from the nearest tubewell site, often traveling long distances to do so. Time spent gathering water is time that could be spent in school or work, limiting women’s development and empowerment. Those unfortunate enough to not have access to a tubewell are usually relegated to using polluted surface water. Bangladesh has made considerable progress in recent decades by installing a variety of tubewells throughout the country, but gender inequity remains significant and widespread as many households still lack reasonable access to clean water.
Lying upstream of Bangladesh is the secluded Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. With a mountainous topography, low population density, and an abundance of protected forest sheltering pristine water resources, Bhutan seems to offer a fresh contrast to the water woes of Bangladesh. However, Bhutan’s rapid development in recent years has presented significant challenges for maintaining adequate water quality. Additionally, changing precipitation regimes – with climate change as the suspected culprit – have begun to alter the seasonal timing and accessibility of water. As locals will tell you, trash-choked waterways near development are the most apparent indicator that things have begun to go awry, while many agricultural areas that have never experienced water shortages are now struggling just to get by.
In traditional Bhutanese society, management of water and other resources at the household level are in significant contrast to Bangladesh. Women typically have an equal voice in economic and household decisions, and gender roles tend to be quite fluid - it is not uncommon for men to gather water and wood, or for women to raise livestock. Furthermore, women are empowered through land ownership and involvement in community decisions.
This is not to say that gender inequity does not exist in Bhutan – the majority of government positions are currently held by men – nor is the comparison meant to be a reckoning of the traditional social structure in Bangladesh. Rather, observations of each country are chiefly tied to how freshwater availability, inadequate infrastructure, and population density can lead to water pollution, and ultimately – depending on existing social structure and gender roles – gender inequity. While water pollution in Bhutan is generally not as pervasive or severe as in Bangladesh, traditionally equal gender roles in Bhutan seem to have dampened the potential negative effects of water issues on current gender inequity. In Bangladesh, traditionally unequal gender roles have allowed widespread pollution and inadequate infrastructure to have an amplificatory effect on current inequities.
Despite their contrasts, Bangladesh and Bhutan are inextricably tied to one another by water: all of Bhutan’s runoff eventually makes its way to Bangladesh via the immense Brahmaputra river – a river already shouldering significant pollution loads from its path through Tibet and India. As a downstream inheritor of Bhutan’s current and future development, maintaining adequate water quality in Bhutan is an imperative for Bangladesh and its many marginalized women. Environmental degradation and inadequate infrastructure are an offense to all, but especially so to the already disenfranchised woman.
Bryan Currinder is a Master’s of Environmental Studies (MES) candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. Bryan traveled to Bangladesh and Bhutan with another MES student, Naimul Islam, in August 2016 to study the quality of surface and groundwater resources in developed and undeveloped areas of each country
by Sally Cardy
Please look at this article by Adrian Lievano in LinkedIn.
“Water has the power to bolster or stifle the economies of the future; it can promote health or spread disease — its power can even unlock a new era of space travel, serving as a fuel source for rockets in the future on asteroids. Clearly, water is a wondrous resource that we must further appreciate. Today, we celebrate world water day, we celebrate life, and a more prosperous and healthy future for us all. ”
by Sally Cardy
Can the secret to the country’s happiness be found in its communal pools?
This article by Dan Kois in the NYT talks about water as it affects communities in Iceland. I was particularly interested in the comments about women and body image as it relates to a culture built around water.
“It’s wonderful,” an actress named Salome Gunnarsdottir told me in the pool one evening. “Growing up here, we see all kinds of real women’s bodies. Sixty-five-year-olds, middle-aged, pregnant women. Not just people in magazines or on TV.”
by Danielle Gambogi
Sara Liza Baumann is a program officer and researcher in public health and international development, with research interests in women’s health, gender, sexuality, WASH and menstrual hygiene management. While studying at the University of Michigan, Sara discovered her passion for addressing social justice issues using research and the arts. She went on to complete a Fulbright Fellowship, her Masters in International Public Health, and has completed research studies in topics surrounding gender and sexuality, HIV/AIDS and international development.
In 2010, Sara founded a film company, Old Fan Films, that specializes in film communication material, advocacy film pieces, documentaries and visual anthropology. Sara is determined to combine her love for film, media and the arts with sound research, to tackle world issues that matter most. Her documentary work has recently been featured at the Smithsonian Institute, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum & United Nations in New York, and more.
Below is a sample of her work, a film entitled, “Managing Menstruation in Bangladesh”.
Whether a girl lives in South America, Africa, Europe or Asia, she will transition through a natural experience, that of menstruation, that often signifies a shift from childhood to adulthood. Depending on the culture, menstruation may be of differing significance, however menstruation is a biological event that girls and women around the world share.
Many girls living in different cultural settings around the world share some sense of embarrassment around the experience of menstruation. In order to adequately prepare girls for their first menstruation, there is a need to better understand how girls manage their menstruation in environments that may pose challenges to their comfort and safety. Setting out with the goal of increasing understanding of how young girls manage menstruation in resource-poor settings, we traveled to a school in Mymensingh, Bangladesh to gather perspectives from adolescent girls themselves about their experiences of menstruation through the an exploratory film study. The goal of the film was to gather information on experiences of adolescent girls to inform future interventions, but it was also created to bring about awareness on the issue of menstruation. By using visual methods, and bringing the results together in a clear and conscience manner, the aim was to share on a variety of outlets to promote the need for more research on the topic of menstruation and its impacts on women’s health, education and development.
We conducted an exploratory film study in Mymensingh, Bangladesh.Bangladesh is a small, densely populated country of more than 156 million people, bordered by India and the Bay of Bengal. The population is predominantly Muslim. The city of Mymensingh is located in central Bangladesh on the Brahmaputra river. The area where the film was shot was outside of the city center, in a rural setting.
For the film, seven interviews were conducted with adolescent girl students, aged 10-16, who attend public schools (pre- and post-menarche) in Bangladesh, their teachers, as well as youth club leaders, who were also adolescent girls.