Dreaming of good health: Rose's story

18-year-old Rose has a single dream in life – but it’s not what you might expect from someone so young. This is what she told us when we met her in Madagascar this summer.


6 Aug 2014 | UK

Talking to 18-year-old Rose in her village of Ambohimahatsinjo, Madagascar, everything inevitably comes back to one thing: her enthusiasm for one day being clean and healthy.

It might seem like a simple dream for someone so young. But given that Rose bears the sole responsibility of collecting water for her family – and the fact that water is not only dirty but frequently makes them sick – it quickly becomes apparent why these thoughts have come to dominate her life.

Rose collects water in Madagascar
Rose collects water for her family in Madagascar.
Credit: WaterAid/Abbie Trayler-Smith

An open pool of dirty water

Sadness has already touched Rose's family. She lost her father eight years ago, and now lives with her mother, grandmother and adopted brother, Sam.

Their village is on top of a large hill, and while being high up helps the community protect their animals – chickens, pigs and zebu – from attack, it also makes the walk to the water source at the bottom of the hill, down a steep, uneven path lined by cacti, particularly treacherous.

And even when the girls – because it is always the girls who collect water here – do manage to reach the small source, all they are greeted with is an open, dirty pool, full of the insects and algae that make them all sick.   

The dangers of taking any water you can find

"I think it over and over: this water I am collecting is going to make me sick," Rose tells us. "It makes me sad that I have to collect water from very far away and that it is dirty.

"I take any water I can find. There is no other option. I have had diarrhoea five times in the last two months - it takes me a week to get better. I also suffered from dysentery twice last year. It makes my tummy hurt and I bleed.

"For showering, we can go to the field or in the cattle shed. I’m afraid to have showers in the field, because the water has microorganisms in it. It's dirty and makes my whole body itch.

"When I get my period, I have to change my underwear at least six times a day. It's uncomfortable, but it's the only way. I feel better after I have washed myself, but I use the same dirty water."

Rose with her grandmother at home in Madagascar
Rose helps her grandmother in the home they share in Madagascar.
Credit: WaterAid/Abbie Trayler-Smith

A chance to be healthier – and happier

Family is everything to Rose; she truly believes she can make her family live well and she shoulders this responsibility with the same strength she uses to haul her jerry can of water six times a day, despite her slight build.

"I believe that if we have water close by then I will get healthier, and that makes me happy," she tells us. "Less time for water collection means I won’t be so exhausted, and I can help my mother more.

"I hope to have my own family one day, and it will be totally different: they will be healthy. I will educate my children and I won't have to send them far away to collect water, so they can use this time to learn.

"In the future, I would like to become a hygiene promoter. I know I would enjoy it, as I would be making a good contribution to my community and my family."

Help rewrite the story for girls like Rose

This summer, we want to rewrite the story for 130,000 girls around the world with clean water and safe toilets through our To be a girl appeal. Every donation we receive by 9 September will be doubled by the UK Government, helping us transform even more lives. Find out what you can do to help at