CHILDREN: THE CHANGE AGENTS FOR UNICEF
Kim, a 16-year-old student at Phu Hoi Lower Secondary School, lives in the Au Phu district of Vietnam. Growing up, life for Kim was tough. She lives in a country where, in many places, disease-causing germs spread daily, where many still have to go to the toilet out in the open, where girls miss school, or even drop out, because there isn’t a private place to go to manage their menstrual cycles. Kim grew up without access to a safe, clean toilet. But she saw an opportunity for change and took the initiative to play an important part in creating the solution.
Domestos and the Unilever Foundation support UNICEF’s school-led sanitation programmes to educate children on the need for improved sanitation. This is one part of UNICEF’s wider community-focussed approach to improving sanitation, and those involved know just how important education is for behaviour change, particularly with children. The Head Teacher of the Lower Secondary School says: “The programme has a great impact… the success of this project means we have changed [the] behaviour of children. And this contributes to the work being done to stop open defecation in the entire community. Open defecation causes a lot of problems, not only for each individual, but the whole community.
“Children from the school were able to influence their parents and tell them about the importance of a toilet in the home.”
Kim learned how poor sanitation can result in the spread of disease-causing germs, causing members of the community to get sick, miss school or – even worse – not reach the age of five. Kim explains that when she told her family about how a safe toilet could make a difference, they had to make a change. She says: “There are a lot of good reasons to have a toilet. It is convenience and is not embarrassing… It’s very embarrassing and unhealthy to have to go in the open. It makes the environment smelly and contaminated.”
Kim and her family knew it would mean more time at school for Kim and less time for her mother to worry when she was sick. They came up with a plan, saved up money and built the toilet when they had enough – this was a few months ago. Kim says: “It is important that more children convince their parents to have a toilet at home.”
More children like Kim have the potential to ignite a change in their communities or around the world.
WHAT’S BEEN ACHIEVED SO FAR
The UNICEF, Domestos and Unilever Foundation partnership is now in its fourth year. As aresult of our first three years of partnership, thanks to the UNICEF sanitation programmes that Domestos and Unilever support, 1,320,000 people have been reached by UNICEF’s global sanitation programme, leading to improved health, safety, security and dignity.
Of those 1,320,000 people, 655,000 live in ‘open defecation free’ communities.
In the 2,000+ communities that are now ‘open defecation free’, women and girls now have basic sanitation, ensuring that they have the freedom to relieve themselves without the risk of shame, harassment or attack.
69,000 school children have benefited from sanitation and hygiene education programmes in 260 schools, meaning fewer sick days and more children staying in school, leading to improved learning.
In South Africa, the partnership has reached more than 75,000 children in 243 schools with health and hygiene education. These programmes help to ensure children practice good hygiene at school.
Domestos (known as Vim in Brazil) is also supporting the government there to roll out its‘Municipal Seal’ programme for schools, indirectly helping to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in Brazilian schools for an estimated 945,000 children every year.
(*Figures are based on actual reported beneficiaries reached to-date in conjunction with funds dispersed in 2012 -2014)