Author and TV chef Nadiya Hussain MBE has launched a new appeal, ‘Thirst for Knowledge’, to help bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to schools worldwide, giving generations of girls the chance to build a better future.

Author and TV chef Nadiya Hussain MBE has launched WaterAid’s new appeal to help disadvantaged young girls across the globe (Picture credit: Chris Terry)

Nadiya, an ambassador for WaterAid, the international charity behind the scheme, is adding her support to the campaign alongside the launch of her latest exciting ventures – her new BBC2 television series and book, both called Nadiya’s Fast Flavours.

Through its appeal, WaterAid will help bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to communities in Nepal and around the world, transforming tens of thousands of lives.

The UK government will match public donations made between 16 November 2021 and 15 February 2022 up to £2 million, helping bring these vital facilities to 28,000 people and 30 schools in the Bardiya district of Nepal.

The Thirst for Knowledge appeal will help school children like Puja who lives in Lahan, south-eastern Nepal, almost 100 miles east of Kathmandu. Nepal’s extreme landscapes, earthquakes and changing climate all contribute to making it difficult to reach people with vital facilities.

The water in Puja’s school is yellow and dirty, and there’s only one toilet block, which, the headteacher says is in a ‘critical’ condition, meaning most children relieve themselves in the fields. Many girls skip school when on their period due to the lack of facilities.

Puja Yadav, 12, right along with her friend Kiran Mahato, 15, along with their books at Shree Lekhnath School, Malhanma, Lahan-24, Nepal, April 2021 (Picture credit: Sailendra Kharel)

Puja, 12-years-old, explains the problems she faces at school: “There is water at the school, but it contains iron and stinks.

“I have fallen ill by drinking the water and [that] causes us to miss classes. I can’t fulfil my aims if I don’t study. Life is not possible without water, since we need water to do everything like drink, cook, clean, wash, sanitation, and personal hygiene.”

Women and girls are responsible for collecting water in four out of five households with water off the premises, putting their safety at risk and leaving little time to go to school or earn a living.

Globally, 31% of schools have no basic water supply, and just over a third do not have decent toilets. In Nepal, the lack of facilities contributes to the fact that more than one in three adolescent girls leave school after finishing primary education.

Nadiya Hussain has seen the reality of life without clean water when visiting Bangladesh.

She said: “Every mother wants to provide their children with the best start in life, yet millions of parents around the world have no choice but to send their kids to a school with no clean water or toilets. Not only does this compromise their children’s health; it has a particularly detrimental impact on girls and traps whole communities in poverty. Without these basic facilities, another generation of girls and young women are being left behind.

 “The good news is that water can be an incredible catalyst for lasting change.

“With clean water, toilets and soap in schools, girls can complete their education and grow up on an equal footing, with the chance to earn a higher income and build better futures for themselves and their families. That’s why I’m so proud to support WaterAid’s Thirst for Knowledge appeal; together we can help transform lives for good.”

WaterAid’s appeal will help construct new, sustainable school water systems, decent toilets, and drinking water stations with handwashing facilities, enabling children to easily wash, drink and go to the toilet without missing lessons. Provision will be made for girls to manage their periods safely and hygienically, so they no longer worry about missing out on their education or fetching water.