Women leading and influencing



COVID-19 Leadership: Connecting Schools to Clean Water

Friday, 19 March 2021

Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) alumni Dorothy Jolly and Matilda Kapipi and participant Lisa Marie Ijape have teamed up to connect three rural Papua New Guinean (PNG) schools to clean water.

In order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and other diseases, the PNG-native team worked with local communities to introduce rain water catchment systems in three rural schools in Eastern Highlands Province.

The project not only improved the team’s leadership skills and the schools’ capacity for health and hygiene, but meant more students were able to safely access education during the pandemic.

Increasing rural access to water and education

Dorothy, Matilda and Lisa conducted baseline research into the health and social impacts of COVID-19 on students in their own communities within Goroka and Henganofi Districts.

They identified that three elementary schools in these districts lacked access to clean water, and as a consequence were forced to reduce the number of students able to enrol  during COVID-19.

Without clean water for hand-washing and drinking, many Nagamiufa Elementary School, Siave Community School and Henganofi Station Primary School students were missing out on their education.

The team explains, “There were also other illnesses caused by poor hand hygiene such as tummy aches and diarrhoea.”

“With this project, students can now access clean water to wash their hands after using the toilets and before eating, thus, basic hygiene will be taught and maintained to reduce various diseases, not to mention COVID-19.

“The various beneficiaries, especially teachers and the community, were so grateful for this project,” the team adds.

Working together to overcome COVID-19 challenges

Commencing in July 2020, the Rain Water Catchment System for Rural Schools project engaged whole-school communities to develop and install a 5000-litre rainwater tank at each of the three school sites.

Dorothy, Matilda and Lisa worked closely with the National Department of Education, the Provincial Education office, teachers, parents and students.

The team also engaged community and church leaders to build participation and support.
But implementing the project wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Looming COVID-19-induced lockdowns meant that materials had to be urgently delivered on-site.

Furthermore, poor road and weather conditions made it even more difficult to deliver the tanks to two of the three schools.

Thanks to help from the local community, the tanks were finally able to be transported.

Strengthening leadership skills and networks

Dorothy, Matilda and Lisa believe the project has not only helped them drive positive health and education outcomes in their home districts, but “provided an avenue” to “ [to] strengthen ties and networks with the community leaders and youths”.

“I am grateful I have been part of the WLI team, as I have learnt a lot at a leadership level, as well as on a personal level,” says Dorothy, “Being out there and implementing a project has taught me a lot of new things.”

The team hopes to extend the Rain Water Catchment System for Rural Schools project to include adequate toilet facilities for students in these three schools after the lockdown is lifted.

The project was completed in September 2020.


Dorothy, Matilda and Lisa’s Rain Water Catchment System for Rural Schools project represents one of 15 COVID-19-related leadership projects being conducted by WLI participants and alumni in the Pacific.

Funded by WLI, teams work collaboratively to scope, develop and implement projects with a focus on health, education, safety and security, and agriculture and food security are being implemented across six Pacific countries (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Nauru, Tonga and Solomon Islands).

Find out more about each project here.