Lack of sanitation—the other half of the water infrastructure equation—can also disadvantage girls. This problem is created through both biological sex differences and cultural gender differences.
Menstruation increases girls’ need for clean latrines and privacy at school. In Uganda, for example, dropout rates for girls rise dramatically around ages 12-13, consistent with menarche. Only 8% of Ugandan schools have a sufficient number of latrines for the number of students attending, and of those schools that do, only one-third have sex-segregated facilities (Uganda Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, 2005).
Gendered beliefs and norms also block girls from attending school. In many countries, including Uganda, menstruation is a taboo subject. Parents may believe that it is no longer “necessary or appropriate for a daughter to continue to attend school past puberty” (Kirk et al., 2006). These taboos are strongest in the places that most lack water infrastructure—poor rural areas—and are a major barrier to girls’ education (Sommer et al., 2010).
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