The female friendly toilets in Khoplang, Gorkha - Credit: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Oxfam supports adolescent girl students after earthquake

When Samjhana Basel, 17, returned to school a month after the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015, nothing was the same.

Samjhana is already married, but she lives alone since her husband works overseas. The eight grader was home alone when the earthquake flattened most of her village in Khoplang VDC in Gorkha district.

Samjhana survived and was keen to resume her studies at Sarada Secondary School. Classes stopped for a month and when they resumed things were very different.  Where they had been class rooms there now were shelters made from bamboo and zinc sheets. There were no longer facilities for drinking water and proper latrines. “There were only two temporary latrines, one for males and one for females, serving more than 300 students and teachers,” says Samjhana. 

As a result students were forced to defecate in the open. Soon the land and lake area close to the school got polluted. The situation caught the attention of both the school management and the wider community, concerned about the outbreak of waterborne diseases.  As a result, school attendance, particularly among girls, started to decrease. Samjhana too no longer felt like completing her studies.

Oxfam together with its partner organization Tulsi Meher Unesco Club (TMUC) agreed to help find a solution. They provided the necessary materials for four latrines and drinking water facilities. The school took on the responsibility for constructing the latrines and installing the drinking water taps.

Aiming to encourage adolescent girls to continue their studies, Oxfam and TMUC assisted with the construction of female friendly latrines. These latrines feature proper lighting, lockable doors, water for cleaning and hand washing facilities. In addition the latrines have a storage space for sanitary napkins and an area for the disposal of used ones.

“In the past when we had our monthly periods, we girls used to go home or use one sanitary napkin for the whole day,” says Samjhana, who noticed that after the construction of the female friendly latrines more girls started attending school on a regular basis even during their monthly period. “We can ask our female teacher for sanitary napkins and store and dispose them properly. We no longer feel humiliated when we have our monthly period,” the eighth grader concludes.

Oxfam one year on built 18,599 toilets in schools across seven earthquake affected districts. To support adolescent girl students, Oxfam and its partners built 27 toilets with facilities for Menstrual Hygiene Management in schools. The students also receive classes on menstrual hygiene, hand washing and maintaining general hygiene in school. As a result, school attendance levels among girl students have been restored and in many places even gone up.