Supporting teenage girls after the Nepal earthquake

Oxfam female friendly latrines at a secondary school in Nepal
Oxfam provided the materials and oversaw the construction of female friendly latrines at Sarada Secondary School, Gorkha district, Nepal. Photo: Kieran Doherty

17 year old, Samjhana Basel was at home when the Nepal earthquake of April 2015 flattened most of her village in Khoplang VDC in Gorkha district . Despite her young age she is still married but she lives alone because her husband works abroad.

Samjhana was keen to resume her school studies as soon as possible. When her school reopened one month after the earthquake, however, nothing was the same.

Where they had been classrooms there were now just simple shelters made from bamboo and zinc sheets. There were no longer facilities for drinking water or 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. The land and water surrounding the school soon became polluted.  The situation caught the attention of both the school management and the wider community, who were concerned about the outbreak of waterborne diseases.  School attendance, particularly among girls, started to decrease. Samjhana sadmits that even she no longer felt like completing her studies.

Together with our partner organization, Tulsi Meher Unesco Club (TMUC), we agreed to help find a solution. We provided the necessary materials for four latrines and for safe drinking water facilities. The school took on the responsibility of constructing the latrines and installing the water taps.

Oxfam has provided water and sanitation facilities in a temporary school in Gorkha.We have also been working to provide hygiene lessons to the school children. 

With the aim of encouraging 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 periods, we 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 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 period,” she concluded.

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. 

Find out more about our work in Nepal