Building bathrooms for a better future

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Lack of proper sanitation is causing adolescent girls in developing countries to suffer and lose access to clean water, certain health benefits, education, and social empowerment.  
Bank of America and Dasra gathered Monday, September 26 to address the lack of sanitation and its effect on adolescent girls in India. The two organizations are working together to increase access to proper sanitation facilities and ultimately empower adolescent girls.

Graphic from Graphic from Dasra-Bank of America report, Dignity For Her showing how lack of sanitation affects adolescent girls in urban settings
Flowchart showing how the lack of sanitation facilities affects adolescent girls in urban settings. Courtesy of Dasra-Bank of America report, Dignity For Her.

Dasra is a philanthropic foundation that works with multiple Grassroots Support Organizations (GSOs) to aid the 800 million people living in poverty in India. One of Dasra’s focuses is to provide sanitation to those in both rural and urban areas who lack this necessity.
The organization believes that adolescent girls are often overlooked and underrepresented. Adequate sanitation can provide them with clean drinking water, a full education, and the social means to fulfill their potential.
“People were giving large fundings to women on one hand and children on the other. Adolescent girls were being covered by children or women, but they are in between, and in a stage where life decisions are crucial,” President and India Country Head, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Ltd. Mrs. Kaku Nakhate said. 
Over 50 percent of India’s 120 million adolescent girls lack access to private toilets, according to dasra.org. This lack of proper sanitation is the source of larger problems, including soiled water supplies, physical illnesses, lack of education, and deprecation of women and adolescent girls.
Normally, women and girls do not have control over the construction of their homes and the sanitation facilities they have access to, which is a problem that Bank of America and Dasra are working to resolve. These companies have come together to empower these young women and help them to achieve their potential through improved living conditions.
Graphic from Dasra-Bank of America report, Dignity For Her showing how lack of sanitation affects adolescent girls in rural settings
Flowchart showing how the lack of sanitation facilities affects adolescent girls in urban settings. Courtesy of Dasra – Bank of America report, Dignity For Her.

“I think making [adolescent girls in India] a part of the decision-making process of how these houses are being built as well as making sure they have water and sanitation can change their fate,” Co-founder of Dasra Mr. Deval Sanghavi said. “Putting these women and girls at the forefront of this entire empowerment process is critical.”
Only 20 percent of waste generated in India is treated properly, according to a report by Bank of America and Dasra titled Dignity For Her. Often leaks, breaks, and bursts in the pipes and holding facilities contaminate the water reserve. The absence of correct sanitation methods allows fecal matter to enter the main water supplies of low-income communities. This is the water used for bathing, cleaning, and drinking.
Physical health issues also stem from improper sanitation. 334,000 children under the age of five die every year due to inadequate sanitation, according to Dignity for Her.
When open defecation is the only option, people, especially girls and women, can feel uncomfortable and less inclined to relieve themselves. They end up reducing food and water intake to minimize the number of times needed to relieve themselves. On average, women and girls in Indian cities hold their bladders for 13 hours a day, leaving them at risk of urinary and reproductive tract infections, according to Dignity for Her.
Without a private or gender separated toilet, women and young girls can only use their communities’ toilets scarcely. They usually go during nightfall and other odd hours in order to obtain privacy and avoid harassment. This approach is dangerous, but it is the only option since homes and schools do not have bathroom facilities available to them.
When schools do not contain gender separated toilets, young girls are at a disadvantage and miss valuable class time and learning opportunities. 23 percent of girls drop out of school upon reaching puberty for multiple reasons, one of which is the lack of facilities to manage menstruation, according to Dignity for Her.
“If you can provide her with sanitation you can get her to be less worried about issues like defecation and more about how to take larger steps in life and be empowered,” Mrs. Nakhate said, “Then it gives her the self-security and self-confidence to not live in fear, which is the most important thing.” 
Featured image courtesy of dasra.org.
-Anissa Arakal, Staff Writer