The widespread lack of access to toilets and water in the world has a devastating impact on girls and women. The lack of hygiene facilities in schools is a major reason for girls dropping out of school when they reach puberty. This curtails their education and the opportunity to take the first essential steps out of poverty.

In the Manufahi district of Timor-Leste, Ailuli Pre-Secondary School’s toilet block had been abandoned and unused for several years because it was in total disrepair, dysfunctional and unhygienic. Students had to go to the toilet in nearby bushes.

WaterAid renovated the toilets and provided menstrual hygiene management training for students and staff to help students manage their periods effectively and to dispel myths.

The students decorated the rehabilitated toilets by painting pictures on the walls.

Now that they no longer miss school when they have their periods, students like Madelena can focus on their education and future.

Madelena, 15 says, “Toilets are small things but they can help us realise our dreams because with a toilet we don’t miss school and with a toilet we can focus on our study. My dream in the future is to be a doctor because doctors can help others and can save people’s lives.

“Not only did we get a toilet but we got information from WaterAid about periods…before we got instruction from WaterAid my mother told me things like I can’t eat chilli when I have my period, but when I got information from WaterAid I learnt I can do anything when I get my period.”

Every girl and woman should have access to facilities to manage their menstruation in a hygienic way, in privacy, safety and with dignity.