In the summer of 2014, we went on an incredible journey to find out what it means to be a girl around the world. Now, thanks to the support of people like you, Solo's village has clean water for the first time – but there are still thousands more girls whose lives we can transform, forever.Donate now
Until now, Solo – like thousands of girls around the world – could only dream of having safe, clean water close to her home.
Her days used to be defined by the walk to collect dirty water for her family. But thanks to the incredible generosity of people like you, that’s all changed – and the future for Solo and her entire community is looking bright.
“What’s happening in our village is so great,” Solo told us, as she tasted the water from the new waterpoint for the very first time with her best friend, Ze.
“The water is so clean and fresh and the taste is so different from our old dirty source. Thank you so much.”
“There is lots of fresh, clean water coming from the pump. It’s so easy to get water here,” says Ze. "Thank you for making it happen.”
With your help, we’ve raised enough money to transform the lives of over 250,000 girls with clean water and safe toilets. It’s an incredible achievement – but there’s still so much more we need to do.
Solo's whole community will benefit from the arrival of clean water and safe toilets – but no-one will feel the transformation more than the girls who live there.
And the changes happening in villages like Solo's are just the beginning. With your support, many more girls can be empowered to live a healthy life, to go to school and to fulfil their potential. Find out what the future might hold for Solo.
“I’ve asked my Mum and Dad to build a shower too," says Solo.
Thanks to supporters like you, her community doesn’t just have a supply of fresh, clean water. They’re also building pit latrines and learning the skills they need to look after their new waterpoints, so they can support each other to stay clean and healthy in the future, too.
Having fresh, clean water just 15 metres from their village means Solo and Ze will no longer have to face the long, treacherous walk to the old water source and back, loaded down with heavy jerry cans of dirty water.
That means more time for study, more time to play with friends – more time to just be girls. And it’s all thanks to people like you.
Every day, 700 girls around the world die from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
That’s why, as well as bringing clean water and safe toilets to Solo’s village, we’ve trained two volunteers from the community in handwashing and hygiene, so they can pass on their knowledge and make sure positive change for everyone is here to stay.
Now that Solo and Ze’s community have access to safe, clean water, they can transform their lives and their futures.
And with your help, we can make sure thousands of other girls around the world have the same opportunity, giving them the chance to be healthy, to go to school, to play with their friends – to just be a girl.
When we asked you to re-write the story for girls around the world, we were overwhelmed by your support.
So when we read a letter from seven-year-old Rosa-May, telling us about the loom band sale she and her friends had organised to help girls like Solo and Ze – we decided to do something really special.
It sounds like a punishment. But every month, Radha takes it in her stride. She crouches down outside her home in Nepal and waits for her sister to bring out her dinner, careful not to go inside the house or touch her sister.
Why? Because she has her period.
In Radha's village, they believe that for the seven days of her period she is 'chau': an 'untouchable, menstruating woman'.
That means her status is lower than a dog’s – and she must be kept apart from the rest of the village.
In many countries, women are forbidden from using their community's water when they have their period because they're seen as 'unclean'.
But with your help, we can challenge these stigmas and make sure women and girls everywhere have access to safe, clean water – whatever the time of the month.
It looks like an animal shed, only smaller. It is open to the elements, hot in summer and cold in winter.
This is the chaupadi shed, and it is where every woman and girl from Radha’s village must sleep when they have their period.
If Radha is lucky, other women and girls will be sleeping in the shed with her too.
It will be a tight squeeze, but it means some protection against drunken men who shun girls with their periods in public – but don't mind raping them at night.
In villages like Radha’s, girls with their periods are shrouded in taboo.
Some believe they are possessed by evil spirits and must be healed. Others say that if they touch a man or boy, he will start shivering and get sick.
Together, we can deliver safe water and sanitation to remote communities like Radha's.
We can address the taboos that surround women and their periods. And we can put an end to outdated practices like chaupadi, so every girl has the chance to grow up and achieve her ambitions.
Paralympian Ellie Simmonds met Sumaya when she visited a WaterAid project in Uganda. At 18, Sumaya is already looking after her daughter Katrina, her two sisters and her brother.
They live at the bottom of a busy slum that houses more than 555,000 people – and has no safe water or toilets.
“I walked with Sumaya to where she collects water. She showed me three plastic pipes poking out of a concrete slab with water gushing out," says Ellie.
"A group of men washed an oily bicycle in the flowing water. It looked clean. But it’s dirty and contaminated.”
The dirty water often makes Sumaya and her daughter Katrina sick, and emergency visits to the nearby clinic have forced her into more and more debt.
But Sumaya pushes on despite the dangers, collecting water every day to keep her family alive.
Diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and dirty toilets is easily preventable. But right now, it’s the second biggest killer of girls under five worldwide.
That’s why we’re determined to get safe, clean water to communities that urgently need it - but it will only be possible with your help.
12-year-old Maria Stella knows how dangerous water can be. When she was nine, she had such bad diarrhoea she had to go to hospital.
But now, with WaterAid’s help, her school has a rainwater harvesting system, new toilets and a hygiene club – and instead of worrying about the water, she can think about the future instead.
“I am happy at this school. It has caring teachers. I think I’ll stay here until I’m 18,” says Maria Stella.
“I want to be a radio journalist. To achieve my dream I will listen to my parents and try to gain experience. I will study literature to be a good journalist.”
With your help, we can give generations of girls the chance of a better future.
We can reduce the risk of catching deadly diseases and give mums and their babies a better chance of survival during childbirth – simply by providing access to safe, clean water and sanitation.
In Kajal's village, open drains pollute the air and there are no toilets so when she has to go, it's in front of prying eyes.
"I go in nearby fields. How can you like it when there are lots of men around when you go to the toilet?"
"When the wheat crop is high, we’re better hidden, but once it’s been harvested girls and boys can see each other.
"We have to cover ourselves with our scarves when going to the toilet."
Around the world, 526 million women and girls have no choice but to suffer the indignity of defecating in the open.
But with your help, we can provide the facilities they need to stay clean and healthy – and give them the privacy they deserve.
"When I go to the toilet, people pass remarks and I get annoyed. It’s also not very safe.
"A five-year-old girl was taken by some boys when coming back from the toilet so I don’t go on my own. I usually go with my sister or cousin."
Once a month, going to the toilet in the open becomes even more difficult for Kajal: when she has to manage her period without the privacy and dignity of a safe place to wash and keep clean.
23% of girls in India drop out of school when they hit puberty.
Of those that continue, many miss classes five days a month – simply because there isn’t a toilet and they’re too embarrassed to go.
"If I could continue studying, I would like to get a job in the police department.
"That would be a good job. I’d also be able to help my family with money."
Last year, WaterAid reached 820,800 girls and women through our work, improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities.
Together, we can change the story for more girls like Kajal.
"I would really like to go to Mumbai with someone from my family.
"My neighbour's been and told me about it. I've also seen it on TV and people were playing on the beach and going in the sea. I’d love to go to the beach; I've never been."
"The first thing I have to do is fetch water. In one day, we can go three times. It’s not easy."
It seems impossible. But every morning, Rihanata walks 40 minutes to the dam, fills 16 jerry cans with water, then heads home to leave for school – all by 6:30am.
"I was eight when I first fetched water. I was following my older sisters and they showed me how.
"It's a must for a girl. She's the one who has to fetch the water for a family."
Girls around the world spend 152 million hours every day collecting water for their families.
By building safe, clean water sources near their homes, we can help them put those hours back into education – and empower them to change the future of their entire communities.
“I can hold a jerry can with one hand. I carry two at a time. When you have to fill 16 jerry cans, put them in the carts and come back, you end the day with pain.
"I have had to have time off school because of the back pains.”
“To school I wear my normal clothes. My favourite is my yellow skirt.
"My sister is a tailor and she made it for me. I like it because it makes me feel taller.”
"My best friends are three girls – Faiza, Adjara and also Adjara.
"We play together and we study together. We gossip and tell each other everything."
"If there are other people waiting for water, it makes me late at school. Sometimes the teacher sends you home, or keeps you outside.
"If I wasn’t collecting water, I would be studying. I would like to become a doctor. As a doctor you can heal people in your community."
Right now, 60% of the children not enrolled in school around the world are girls.
We can change that, by making sure they have access to safe, clean water and toilets at home and at school.
But we need your help.
Thanks to your amazing support, we’ve raised enough money to transform the lives of over 250,000 girls with clean water and safe toilets.
In Madagascar, Solo and Ze already know how amazing that feels. Watch what happened when their community got clean water for the very first time.
When we asked a group of London schoolgirls to recreate the arduous task of collecting water, they came a step closer to experiencing what life is like for girls in the developing world.
“At 5am I would normally be asleep or getting ready for school,” says Kimberley, 11. “Not collecting water I wouldn’t even want to drink.”
“When I was younger, I spent most of my time in the swimming pool training hard for my next competition. I had to be very determined and disciplined to get to where I am today.”
Ellie Simmonds, Paralympic champion and WaterAid ambassador
The UK Government doubled every donation we received for our To be a Girl appeal between 9 June and 9 September 2014.
It was an incredible opportunity – and even though the match funding is over, you can still give a gift and help transform the lives of girls around the world with clean water and safe toilets.