Nestled away on the remote island of Kshetramohanpur, in the Sundarban Islands of West Bengal, India, the Kshetramohanpur High School is bringing safe water and sanitation to their 770 students.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Before 2009, the school had very poor sanitation infrastructure and no running water; this meant that boys and girls shared bathroom facilities with little-to-no privacy and inadequate hygiene. Together with our partners and the support of the local government, we were able to intervene with one of our first water, sanitation and hygiene (SWASH) programs. This multi-faceted approach improves the facilities, increases privacy, ensures access to safe water, institutes hygiene education, and supports girls through a menstrual hygiene program.
Over the past 6 years we’ve watched conditions improve not only at the school, but also throughout the community. When asked about their hygiene lessons, many of the students shared that they take what they learn in the classroom home with them to share with their families and neighbors. This is proof that even the smallest touch can empower an entire community.
The facilities are especially important for girls at the school, particularly in terms of menstruation, which often causes them to miss school because of embarrassment, and improper hygiene. Building separate blocks for girls and boys, and providing sanitary napkins and incinerators, helps increase regular attendance by the girls in the community. In addition, access to sanitary napkins is also providing more sanitary options for girls because they don’t need to turn to reusable options that are often washed in contaminated lakes and ponds.
Piyali, a student at Khtramohanpur High School and a member of the water and sanitation committee (an elected committee of girls, boys and teachers that oversees the facilities cleanliness and usage,) says that she is extremely proud of the toilet block, safe water, and the menstrual hygiene program.
“I hope that it continues to reduce sickness,” she says. “And I want the same for my brothers and sisters so they don’t have to miss school because they’re sick.”
Piyali’s experience is proof that education and infrastructure can have a big impact. It is proof that one program can play a big role when it comes to ensuring that proper hygiene, safe water, and access to toilets is a reality for all of the children in a community.