Improving Sanitation and Hygiene for Adolescent Girls

Last Updated - 03 Mar,2016
Sixty three million adolescent girls in India lack access to private toilets; 70% of girls have never heard of menstruation before getting their first period. Dasra’s report, Dignity for Her, discusses how this problem threatens the identity, health and potential of adolescent girls. It also profiles strategic solutions to the problem along with social organizations that are implementing these solutions through impactful and scalable models.
Poor sanitation and hygiene among adolescent girls in India, is a problem of access and attitude. Among girls, it critically threatens their:
  • Identity: A lack of sanitation and hygiene facilities makes adolescent girls more vulnerable to the risks of sexual harassment and rape, undermining their confidence and the evolution of their changing identity.
  • Health: The fear of sexual assault, the need for privacy, and the generally unusable state of facilities results in, among other things, girls controlling their bladder for as long as 13 hours a day. This leads to long lasting repercussions on their reproductive, sexual and overall health.
  • Potential: Girls tend to miss school for an average of six days a month due to the inability to manage their periods at school. This eventually contributes to almost 23% of girls dropping out of school on reaching puberty, and critically undermines their potential as individuals and future workers.
Dasra has identified four key focus areas to ensure improved sanitation and hygiene for adolescent girls in India:
  • Partner with girls to identify and design solutions for their sanitation and hygiene needs: To offer sustainable solutions and ensure effective uptake, it is critical to engage adolescent girls throughout the process of identifying, planning and executing solutions for their sanitation and hygiene needs.
  • Prioritize individual toilets over community toilets: Private toilets not only ensure better privacy and dignity for adolescent girls, but are also cheaper, quicker to build and more scalable, and more sustainable as a sanitation solution than community toilets, making them a safer bet for both, investors and girls.
  • Invest in school-based access and adoption of improved sanitation and hygiene: In the absence of adequate facilities and information at home, schools offer a critical platform to bridge this gap. Once girls see a better alternative to what they have known as the ‘norm’, the impact is deep, long-lasting, and crosses the school premises to also trigger change in the community.
  • Promote sensitivity, not secrecy, towards adolescent girls’ sanitation and hygiene needs: To build a supportive environment for the sanitation and hygiene needs of adolescent girls, it is critical to move away from secrecy, and towards responsibly informing fathers, male peers, mothers and community members on the subject.
The focus areas are implemented on the ground through the following interventions undertaken by social organizations:
  • Providing hygiene education to adolescent girls: Inform them about the strong correlation between hygiene and health, and educate them on best practices to adopt using available resources.
  • Providing technical training to key professionals: To effectively implement sanitation and hygiene-related activities.
  • Building an enabling environment at home, school and community level: Work with key stakeholders to build awareness around girls’ distinct needs and help them respond to these sensitively.
  • Facilitating construction of toilets in households: Sensitize households, conduct a needs assessment and help with construction of customized individual toilets to ensure greater dignity and privacy for adolescent girls.
  • Facilitating construction of community toilets: To ensure safe and hygienic community facilities where individual toilets are not an option.
  • Facilitating construction of girls’ toilets in schools: Ensure that school toilets are not only gender-specific but also respond to the distinct needs of adolescent girls.
  • Building ownership through school- and community-based groups: To engage them in the planning, design, operation and maintenance of constructed infrastructure.
  • Enabling access to menstrual hygiene management products: Establish a supply chain that gives the end user access to affordable sanitary pads, either disposable or reusable.
  • Enabling access to funds for construction and repair of sanitation facilities: Provide upfront access to funds and cover costs that are not paid for by the government.
  • Disseminating information about the program’s effect on adolescent girls: Develop evidence on the program’s long- and short-term impact on adolescent girls and make it available in the public domain.
  • Advocating with the government on policy and plans: Negotiate for policies and plans that respond to girls’ sanitation needs.
  • Fund high impact organizations that have been identified by Dasra after an assessment of over 300 organizations.
  • Contact one of these organizations to explore opportunities to partner.
  • Share this page with people you know to direct more support to this cause.