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WHY are so many girls dropping out of school?


This is a guest blog post from Emily Huie, ONE’s ‘Inclusive Growth’ Policy Officer.

Girls around the world drop out of school for a number of reasons; but in many cases these reasons are directly related to a lack of clean water and sanitation at their schools.  As girls enter into adolescence the presence of appropriate bathroom facilities and clean water become even more critical to their ability to stay in school.

Community campaigning in action

Eva and her friends in school.

Globally, girls more often than boys are responsible for gathering water and helping their mothers with household chores; which means that they can spend up to 6 hours per day collecting water. This far too often means that they are forced to drop out of school because they can’t get these chores done and attend classes. In some cases, when they are able to complete their chores and still get to school, they are tired and focusing on school work is an even bigger challenge. In Eva’s village – girls often have to spend hours every day walking to clean water sources and carrying it back to their households.


Eva and her friends collecting water for their school.

Clean water and sanitation go hand in hand. Without separate restroom facilities girls often drop out of school because they don’t have private restrooms and safe places for sanitary necessities. We recently posted a blog by Celeste Mergens, founder of Days for Girls, about the importance of sanitation to help girls stay in school even after menstruation.

Both clean drinking water and proper sanitation are relatively easy fixes that have dramatic results. Reductions in time spent collecting water have been found to increase school attendance, a study in Tanzania has even showed a 12% increase in school attendance when water was available within 15 minutes compared to more than half an hour away.

And staying in school is good for girls on a number of fronts; Girls who stay in school are less likely to marry at a young age. Girls who are educated have a better chance of experiencing better nutritional outcomes AND girls who are educated are more likely to have higher income earning potential.

Girls like Eva and her friends – who have launched a campaign in Tanzania asking their government to provide water at her school –  are similar to many girls across the developing world as their risk of dropping out of school due to lack of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is unacceptably high. And yet, we all benefit if Eva and her peers stay in school.  Ensuring that all students in low-income countries, including girls, leave school with basic reading skills could cut extreme poverty by as much as 12%.