Meet Ritu. She’s sixteen and lives in the beautiful village of Narayanpur in Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur district, India, with her parents and two other siblings.
Despite the picturesque beauty of the village, it hides within it an ugly truth that can sometimes cause Ritu to cry herself to sleep.
Being a teenager is tough for girls all over the world: bodies are changing and we feel especially self-conscious. Ritu knows this only too well, but there’s an extra emotional trauma she has to experience – she has to go to the toilet in the open.
A simple nature’s call for Ritu means a thirty minute round trip which can often end in severe emotional trauma. On a good day, she only has to put up with lewd remarks from local boys. On another day, a boy could grab her hand and tease her while she is forced to hold her urine. But much worse has occurred.
Once, a man knowingly tried to obstruct her. “I asked him to stop but he continued walking towards me. I had to run home immediately with my clothes soiled. I was so disturbed that I cried that entire night,” she says.
Saraswati explains problems are inflated during monsoon and harvest seasons or when girls are on their period. “With boys watching, we can’t wash properly. This leads to health problems. We even avoid drinking and eat less so we don’t have to go to the toilet in the middle of the day.”
One billion people in the world today still do not have access to basic sanitation meaning girls are forced to relieve themselves in the open. This means they risk fear, shame, rape and health problems. These health problems result in girls missing school, affecting their education and future.
Thankfully, something is being done about this. UNICEF and Domestos are working together to help young girls grow up healthy, confident and stay in school through UNICEF’s global sanitation programme. UNICEF’S global sanitation programme promotes good hygiene practices through education, supplies sanitation materials and targets school children to encourage a community-wide change.
With every bottle of Domestos sold a donation will be made directly to UNICEF’s global sanitation programme³. Since the programme started four years ago, more than 69,000 students have benefited from sanitation and hygiene education programmes in 260 schools meaning more confident young girls who do not have to live in fear.
You can donate directly to UNICEF’s global sanitation programme by visiting your closest supermarket and buying a specially marked bottle of Domestos. To find out more and to donate directly to UNICEF, visit the Domestos website.
Feature image photo credit: Female Empowerment India © UNICEF/India/Syed Altaf Ahmad