Aussie Blokes Build Toilets to Help Girls Stay at School in India
A GROUP of Melbourne businessmen are building toilets in India and, apart from improving public health, it is helping more girls stay in school.
Melbourne-based Mark Balla – founder of the charity We Cant Wait – said it was vital toilets in schools were built as, if they were not available, the girls would stay at home when they reached puberty. Mr Balla has just returned from an extraordinary visit to Nasik (north-east of Mumbai). He said, after a certain age (often between 10 and 12), girls were too embarrassed to go to the toilet in the open.
“In some of the poorest schools, going to the toilet outside, is often the only option and the girls choose to stay at home rather than humiliate themselves in public,” he said.
“Lack of toilets can have a terrible impact on the education of girls, as they will often drop out of school, if toilets aren’t available.”
Nasik was the site of We Cant Wait’s first project completed in March, 2015. The charity raised the funds for 15 toilets to be built in a school and this immediately changed the lives of some 500 children in the current generation.
For We Cant Wait’s second major project, Mr Balla says that funds have already been for the construction of some 150 toilets, which will help more than 5000 children. He said the response during the recent visit was unbelievable. “We visited six schools in and around Nasik, and were received by all the kids like rock stars – I signed at least 150 autographs and stopped for more selfies than I could count! We played cricket with the kids at one of the schools. Australia had a team of four and India had a team of around 200. Suffice to say we were overwhelmed by India, both in cricket and emotionally.”
During the recent trip Mr Balla also visited Dharavi, a slum of a million people and the place where he first learned about the sanitation crisis in India. Furthermore, he met with Bollywood star Vidya Balan who is a sanitation ambassador for the Indian government and a truly remarkable social activist.
Mr Balla has been featured on the cover of Indian Weekly, dubbed the ‘Toilet Warrior’, and has also met with officials from the water, sanitation and hygiene division at UNICEF.
After the next project is completed, We Cant Wait has a much larger goal – to build toilets for at least 25000 children by the end of 2016.
For more information go to: www.wecannotwait.org or Like Facebook We Can’t Wait.
Contact: We Can’t Wait,Mark Balla
Perth Media, Cate Rocchi
BACKGROUND: WE CANT WAIT
Not-for-profit We Cant Wait was established in 2013. Its board members are Stephen Niwa (chairman), William Heine, Trevor Ludeman and Mark Balla.
The charity began after Mark Balla met Fahim Vora in an Indian slum two years prior, in 2011.
Fahim told Mr Balla that many of the girls didn't continue their schooling, if there was not access to toilets as they did not want to go to the toilet in the open.
The picture (above) is of Fahim with some of the kids at the Jila Parishad Prathamik school in the town of Sinnar. Mark Balla, founder of We Cant Wait, said: “Around four years ago Fahim and his
friend, Tauseef, introduced me to the sanitation crisis in Indian schools. That changed my life forever. The thrill of introducing Fahim to some of the children, whose lives we are now changing, was indescribable. Fahim, I am forever in your debt."
In total the charity has raised more than $165,000 (including a donation from Reece’s Plumbing of $15,000) and built 15 toilets, while construction of a further 150 more toilets has begun and are expected to be completed in the first few months of 2016. These projects are being run in conjunction with a number of Rotary Clubs, in particular Box Hill Central in Australia and Nasik Road in India. A number of other Australian, India, New Zealand and American clubs are watching the projects with great interest and it is expected that they will help bring about rapid expansion of this exciting work.
BACKGROUND: MARK BALLA (FOUNDER OF WE CANT WAIT)
MELBOURNE-based Mark Balla is a philanthropist, TEDx speaker, entrepreneur, publisher and adventurer. He has a Bachelor of Arts from La Trobe University (Honors in linguistics) and first worked as a writer for Lonely Planet. Mr Balla has had a varied and interesting career including establishing MultipliCD, which was later sold to Regency Media, and he also owns ImagineBooks. In the course of his business activities, Mr Balla began visiting India and has been there more than 30 times. He said We Cant Wait is the most important thing he has done in his life and he is regularly moved to tears. He has been called the ‘The Toilet Warrior’. He is pictured (above) with Bollywood star Vidya Balan.
TEDX link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3xr13xFfto
· One third of the world’s population don't have access to safe sanitation.
· One billion people defecate in the open everyday.
· 4000 children, under the age of five, die from water-borne diseases every day.
· More people in the world have mobile phones than toilets.
· 23% of girls in India drop out of school on reaching puberty, with half reporting that lack of toilets was the reason for leaving.
· 25% of girls in India skip school when they have their period, with almost all reporting lack of toilets was the reason for skipping school.
· Huge numbers of girls in India don't drink water during the day, even in the height of summer, because they are afraid they will need to use the toilet.
· 100 million homes in India don't have toilets.
· In some states in India, up to half of the reported sexual assaults to women, happen after dark when women are going to the toilet.
COMPLETED INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT: New English School in Nasik
The New English School is a school of 515 students in Vihitgaon (a district within the Indian city of Nasik in the state of Maharashtra, about 180km north-east of Mumbai). The school had no toilets and was the site of We Can’t Wait’s first major infrastructure project.
Around 50% of the students at this school have toilets at home. The school has a long-standing relationship with the Rotary Club of Nasik Road in Nasik and had for some time been requesting assistance with this issue. The school already has a basic sanitation education program which is currently being upgraded and the teachers and students are all very pleased that they now have toilets at their school. We Can’t Wait worked with the Rotary Club of Box Hill Central in Australia and the Rotary Club of Nasik Road in India to provide infrastructure and an appropriate education program to the school. The early stages of an education program are already informally underway. The initial focus is to run small discussion groups of mothers with their adolescent daughters, female staff members and a female member of the Rotary Club of Nasik Road. The purpose of these discussion groups is to talk to girls and their mothers about the difficulties that adolescent girls face at school when there are no toilets. It is very important to involve the mothers in this conversation as well so that they understand and support the fact that it will be fine for their daughters to go to school when they have their periods, now that toilets have been installed in the school.