Girls in Timor Leste are usually responsible for collecting water. Many spend over four hours each week carrying heavy containers of water from rivers or wells back to their homes. ChildFund is bringing water closer to their homes and a new project is giving girls leadership roles in their schools.

Juliana is 8 years old. When ChildFund organised a hygiene promotion session at her school in the Bobonaro district, she was one of 12 children who volunteered to help. ChildFund made sure that half of the volunteers were girls. Juliana taught the other students how basic hygiene could prevent them getting sick, and demonstrated the correct way to wash their hands. She also talked about the importance of having short, clean fingernails, and led her friends in hygiene games. ChildFund staff stood by to help Juliana when she had difficulty explaining the concepts to her peers.

Standing up in front of the other students required a lot of courage. Juliana confessed that it was not easy to teach her friends hand washing. Everyone was laughing when she started to demonstrate the correct hand washing technique, which made her feel down. But ChildFund staff were very supportive and gave her the motivation to continue volunteering in order to improve the health conditions in her school. She is now feeling more confident in disseminating health messages to her friends.

Soon, Juliana and her friends will have new toilets in their school, built by ChildFund. Most of the schools in the district don’t have sanitation facilities, so children have to relieve themselves in the open.

Since November 2011, ChildFund has provided clean water for over 600 households, built toilets for five schools, and conducted hygiene promotion sessions for over 1,000 students in Timor-Leste.

Staff have monitored the results to see what causes students to change their behaviour. In one school, three-quarters of the students correctly washed their hands and kept their fingernails clean over time. The lessons from this school will be used by ChildFund to keep improving the hygiene promotion activities for other students.

This project is supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme. To find out more about ChildFund's work helping children in Timor-Leste, expore the Timor-Leste country page.

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