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Lifting a girl’s burden through safe water

Evidence shows that in most of the world women and girls bear the greatest burden when it comes to fetching water. As a result they miss out on opportunities for education, productive activities or leisure time. Thanks to a programme financed by the European Commission and Plan International UK, Plan International Togo significantly improved the situation by promoting the rights of the child to drinking water and environmental health in the Prefecture of Blitta in Togo.

Despite many efforts by different actors in the past, Blitta prefecture remained among the least served in drinking water for a long time. The lack of access to drinking water led villagers to drink contaminated water from rivers and non-protected sources. According to the results of a baseline study carried out in 2011, 79.8% of the population did not have access to the fundamental right to safe and drinkable water.

A challenge to girls’ education

Pyalo, a young student who is now a member of the health committee in her school, remembers too well what the situation was like before the project came to her village. “In school we had no water. We had to go all the way to our homes to get water from the wells and bring it back to school,” she recalls.

Pyalo’s village has around 770 inhabitants and is surrounded by two rivers, where the population fetches water almost all year round. During the dry season, the water of these rivers dries up and to find water, women and girls must walk long distances and sometimes dig holes in rivers.

In the dry season, students, especially girls, spend most of their time looking for water. Consequently they are often late for school, or too tired to concentrate and follow their classes. The heavy burden of fetching and carrying water can therefore end up in lower results for girls, and eventually in increasing drop-out rates.   

Cleaner, healthier and happier

Today, Pyalo and many other girls in her school play a central role in making sure that students make the most of the newly built water facilities, and follow strict hygiene rules - an essential role in realising the full benefits of water and sanitation services.

“Now we have a drill at school and we can drink clean water. We also have enough water to clean the toilets and wash our hands,” she explains. 

Pyalo washing her hands.

“As members of the school health committee we check every morning if the toilets are clean. If it is not clean, we will ask our classmates to come help us and clean together. We also make sure that everyone cleans their hands with soap after going to the toilet,” she adds proudly.

Project Coordinator Alain Redah shows a much justified pride when talking about the results. “Thanks to the project we achieved a positive and sustainable behavioural change: Children and their families now have the important reflex of systematically washing their hands. A simple gesture that saves lives,” he explains.

In terms of access to clean water, the improvements are considerable

“In terms of access to clean water, the improvements are considerable: We note that it increased from 20% in 2011 to 60% in 2016. The access to toilets rate increased from 8.4% to 44.9 %,” he concludes.

Today as the project comes to an end, children and their families are cleaner, healthier and happier in the prefecture of Blitta, opening their lives to new opportunities.  

 

For more information about Plan International's work in Togo go to plan-international.org/togo.

For more information about the work of Plan International UK, go to plan-uk.org.

For more information about the work of the European Commission's International Cooperation and Development Directorate General, please click here.