"Do whatever you want to do, just stay happy."

That’s what Pooja's brother said to her, after her abusive marriage ended and she was back at home living with her family.

Now Pooja, 24, is working with WaterAid and our local partner, Shramik Bharti, to do everything she can to improve the lives of her community in India – while pursuing her own dream of becoming a beautician.

Pooja holds meetings every month to teach girls about menstrual hygiene management, and sells sanitary towels from her home for those who are too embarrassed to go to the shops to buy them.

She also put the caretaker of the local community toilet in touch with Shramik Bharti, and in exchange for a monthly charge, the village enjoys greatly improved facilities – with the number of people defecating out in the open falling from 408 families to just 18.

Listen to Pooja describe her experiences here:

Photography credit: WaterAid/Poulomi Basu

Working in partnership: the HSBC Water Programme

The changes in Pooja's community have taken place as part of our five-year partnership with the HSBC Water Programme. Since April 2012, the programme has reached 567,468 people with safe water and 766,740 people with improved sanitation.

"Pooja is just one of the young women whose lives have been changed by the HSBC Water Programme," says Sue Alexander, Senior Manager of Environmental Programmes at HSBC.

"Her story shows the incredible impact that empowering communities with safe water, toilets and handwashing can have."

Find out more about our To be a girl appeal, to change the story for 130,000 girls around the world this summer with clean water and safe toilets >