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THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE

THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE

When clean water starts flowing, they will be unstoppable

A doctor, a dancer, a teacher, a banker. There’s nothing these girls can’t achieve.

We’re in Lahan, south-eastern Nepal, 100 miles east of the capital Kathmandu. This is a typical secondary school, where girls and boys aged 5 to 18 learn together.

They may sit in the same classrooms and share similar ambitions, but their experiences are vastly different.

Theirs is a classroom divided by water and by toilets.

A Nepali girl in a blue kurta pajama uniform runs, her long ponytail catching the wind as her school friends look on.

Puja, 12, centre, plays with her friends (left to right) Anisha and Mina outside school, April 2021. WaterAid/ Sailendra Kharel

Puja, 12, centre, plays with her friends (left to right) Anisha and Mina outside school, April 2021. WaterAid/ Sailendra Kharel

There are 475 pupils here, 58 percent of whom are girls. Yet between them, these girls have just one functioning toilet at school. Without running water for cleaning, it gets very dirty and becomes all but unusable. The consequences are far-reaching – pitching girls to the back of the class and making it harder for them to achieve their potential.

When girls miss out on water, they miss out on the knowledge to create change.  That's why we're launching Thirst for Knowledge this winter. Through it and with your support we can bring clean water and decent toilets to tens of thousands of girls in Nepal, so they can focus on their learning and their futures. And with the UK government matching your donations up to £2million, we can have twice the impact.

So how do dirty water and toilets keep girls behind? Let’s hear what the girls themselves have to say.

After all, this is their story.

Meet the girls in Nepal whose Thirst for Knowledge powers huge potential.

Meet the girls in Nepal whose Thirst for Knowledge powers huge potential.

I am Puja

I study in grade 7 in Lahan. My favourite subject is maths.

There is water at the school, but it contains iron and it stinks. I have fallen ill by drinking the water at school.

People use the toilet at school, but don’t bother to flush or clean when there is no water. Some of them go out as well, but I go to the toilet no matter how dirty it is.

A young teenage girl in Nepal covers her mouth as she exits a toilet cubicle while her friend waits for her.

Mina, 14, another student at Puja’s school, covers her mouth against the smell inside as she exits the one functional girls' toilet, while her friend Urmila, 17, waits outside, April 2021. WaterAid/ Sailendra Kharel

Mina, 14, another student at Puja’s school, covers her mouth against the smell inside as she exits the one functional girls' toilet, while her friend Urmila, 17, waits outside, April 2021. WaterAid/ Sailendra Kharel

No water, no lessons, no choice
When girls menstruate at school, it affects their studies as they return home. It’s not good to leave the class, but they are compelled to do so since there are no pads, toilets and not even drinking water in our school.

They are absent for one or two days and then they come to school again. They come to school wearing pads but they can’t change it. It is not good, but they have no option. I feel bad when my friends have to miss classes and they can’t perform well in exams.

We need water to do everything
There should be proper management of pads, toilet and drinking water. If these were well managed, menstruating girls wouldn’t have to miss their classes. Life is not possible without water, since we need water to do everything like drink, cook, clean, wash.

We go to school to study and gain knowledge which will help us become somebody we wish and spread knowledge to others.

A young Nepali girl wearing a floral top smiles at the camera.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A young Nepali girl wearing a floral top smiles at the camera as she loops a hair over her right ear.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A young Nepali girl wearing a floral top smiles faintly as she loops a hair over her right ear.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A young Nepali girl in a floral top smiles at the camera.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Globally, 37% of schools don't have decent toilets. This forces millions of girls to stay home during their periods and miss out on the knowledge they need to thrive.

WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

I am Sandhya

I am a 10th grade student in Lahan. I like to create videos and dance.

On my first day of school, I wondered as to what sort of school it would be. There was no provision of drinking water and no toilet, and even the teaching was not good in those days.

I want my school to have a clean toilet.

The water at school is poor. There is no facility for purification. We have to wait for a while to let the mixed contamination sediment.

I wish I should not have to drink such water, but I haven’t complained to the teacher. Nobody is ready to complain about it. So how can I go alone and complain? I drink the well water which comes from the electric motor. I haven’t fallen ill yet – but I don’t know about others.

TikTok queen
During lockdown, I created TikTok videos. I made at least 30 TikTok videos daily.  I think it has been around three years since I started creating TikTok videos. My friends … have even told me that I am about to become TikTok Queen.

I would like to continue dancing, but my professional aim is to become a nurse, focusing on my studies. If time allows then I will continue both simultaneously. TikTok is a way to pass time when my patients are not available.

A teenaged Nepali girl holds a school exercise book while smiling into the distance.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A laughing, teenaged Nepali girl covers half her face with a school exercise book.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A teenaged Nepali girl holds a school exercise book while laughing widely.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A laughing teenaged Nepali girl covers her whole face with her exercise book.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

In Nepal, more than one in three teenaged girls leave education after primary school. The inequality between girls and boys lasts for generations.

Three girls walk in profile through a grassy field in Nepal. As they walk, the girl in the middle disappears.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

I am Arbind
I am Kailash

My name is Arbind, I study in class 9.

My name is Kailash. Arbind is my best friend.

I like Kailash’s quiet and peaceful nature.

Arbind is helpful and gets along with everyone.

Girls and boys should be treated equally

Boys and girls are treated differently in our society. Girls have to work at home, but boys are always roaming and playing. It is not right. 

Girls should study as well as doing household chores. I haven’t done these kinds of chores. My sister, mother and sister-in-law do these works. These tasks are not just for them though.

If I had been a girl, I don’t know what would have happened but I think I would have to do like what my sisters do... if we switched souls, I would not be able to stay like that. We need to change things. We can change it by creating awareness among people regarding gender equality, living in harmony and equality.

 Two young teenaged Nepali boys wearing blue school uniform shirts smile towards the camera.

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Two young teenaged Nepali boys wearing blue school uniform shirts put an arm around one another as they laugh towards the camera.

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Two young teenaged Nepali boys wearing blue school uniform shirts put an arm around one another as they laugh towards the camera.

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Two young teenaged Nepali boys wearing blue school uniform shirts put an arm around one another as they laugh towards the camera.

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Arbind (left) and Kailash. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

With clean water and decent toilets, Sandhya, Puja and tens of thousands of girls like them in Nepal can concentrate on what's really important:



their ambitions.


 


How do we know?

A group of teenaged girls and boys in Nepal share a laugh outside their school.

Students (left to right) Arbind, Kailash, Anju, Pushpa, Kanchan, Sandhya, Mina and Dipendra share a laugh in the shade of a tree outside school, September 2021. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Students (left to right) Arbind, Kailash, Anju, Pushpa, Kanchan, Sandhya, Mina and Dipendra share a laugh in the shade of a tree outside school, September 2021. WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Because we’ve seen it happen before.


 




 
In 2018, together with our partner Nepal Water for Health and supported by UK Aid, WaterAid brought these essentials to thousands of school girls.

Nepali schoolgirls wash their hands at an outdoor tap.

(Left to right) Gyan, Kiran, Shubechchha and Kabita wash their hands at a tap installed by WaterAid and partners at their school in Udayapur, Nepal, March 2019. (Made possible with UK aid from the British people.) WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

(Left to right) Gyan, Kiran, Shubechchha and Kabita wash their hands at a tap installed by WaterAid and partners at their school in Udayapur, Nepal, March 2019. (Made possible with UK aid from the British people.) WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A Nepali schoolgirl washes her hands at an outdoor tap.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A Nepali schoolgirl washes her hands at an outdoor tap.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A teenaged Nepal girl stands looking to the side, mountains in the background. A woven basket filled with a water pitcher is attached to her back by a strap over the top of her head.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A teenage Nepali girls holds a glass of water and smiles as she looks to camera.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A Nepali schoolgirl washes her hands at an outdoor tap.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A Nepali schoolgirl washes her hands at an outdoor tap.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A teenaged Nepal girl stands looking to the side, mountains in the background. A woven basket filled with a water pitcher is attached to her back by a strap over the top of her head.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

A teenage Nepali girls holds a glass of water and smiles as she looks to camera.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Before...

The school premises were very dirty. The toilet was not clean. During menstruation, either girls did not come to school, or, if menstruation happened during school time, they used to go back home, making other excuses such as headache, stomach ache or something like that.
Kabita

... And after

But now the situation has completely changed. The sanitary pads are available in the school and we can easily ask Sarmila miss for the pads. It is very good these days, as we don’t have to leave the school during menstruation. This has helped us to concentrate on our studies.
Kabita in 2019 after WaterAid and local partners installed taps and toilets for thousands of schoolchildren in Udayapur, eastern Nepal. This work was made possible with UK aid from the British people.

Before...

I feel very sad. We don’t have sufficient water. I miss school due to the same reason. I don’t get enough time to complete the assignments.
Rekha in 2018

... And after

The best thing about having water at home is that I can maintain my personal hygiene very well. I can keep the toilet clean, I do not have to carry heavy gagris [pitchers] anymore. I save my time. Due to this I prepared well for the final exam. It went well. When I grow up I want to learn Japanese and I will go to Japan for further study and work.
Rekha in 2019 after WaterAid and local partners installed taps and toilets that can withstand extreme weather changes in Kavre, central Nepal. This work was made possible with UK aid from the British people.

Girls and young women in Nepal are more than the challenges they face. They’re strong, smart and courageous enough to change their lives forever. But they need clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to help them get the education they need to transform their futures.
 

Teenaged school girls walk through a field of tall grass in Nepal.
Teenaged school girls walk through a field of tall grass in Nepal.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

Teenaged school girls walk through a field of tall grass in Nepal.

WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya

This winter, help bring these essentials to schools and communities throughout Nepal. With the match funding you unlock from the UK government, we and our local partners will extend our work to the Bardiya district in Nepal to:

  • construct water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in 30 schools
  • promote children’s rights through child clubs
  • run income-boosting activities such as making liquid soap and sanitary pads.

Give before 15 February 2022 and the UK government will match your donations to our Thirst for Knowledge appeal, up to £2 million, making double the impact.