A legacy of work with UNICEF, rewriting the future of children across the globe.
“In many ways, I have been privileged. Not many people get the opportunity to see a drilling rig hit water in a drought-prone area. And when that water gets hit. And it spurts up into the air. The celebration and the joy in that community – you can’t describe it!”
For over 30 years, Carlow woman Therese Dooley worked across more than 60 countries as one of UNICEF’s leading water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) specialists. Now retired to her hometown of Carlow, Therese is reflecting on her legacy of work throughout her remarkable career.
Safe Water For All
Across her time supporting UNICEF’s mission, Therese has seen how the consequences of unsafe water and a lack of sanitation and hygiene have affected the lives of children. During her time at UNICEF, Therese recognised both the immense challenges and opportunities in improving sanitation for children, and such was her commitment to the cause, she became known as the ‘Toilet Diva’.
“I was known as the Toilet Diva in UNICEF because if you want to impact a child’s health, you can’t just give them water. You also have to make sure they have toilets and a clean environment. I felt this was important because diarrhoea remains one of the biggest killers of children under five. We were seeing great progress on vaccine-preventable diseases and in many other areas. But if we weren’t tackling basic diarrhoea, what were we doing?”
Another issue that deeply mattered to Therese was the menstrual health of girls. “There were very few women working in WASH and it was traditionally a male-dominated sector. On top of that, in many cultures, the issue of menstrual health is taboo. Not unlike it was in Ireland even when I was growing up. However, it is really important for a girl’s dignity and self-esteem. For keeping girls in school and making sure they see school as a safe environment. And also, for their health and well-being.”
Determined to leave a lasting legacy on the issue, Therese began ground-breaking studies with UNICEF in 2003 and eventually, her commitment and drive helped put the issue on the agenda of global policymakers.
“I’m thrilled 20 years later to see the change. It is an integral part of our programmes and people are now talking about it. I was in India the year before last and schoolgirls and women were standing up and talking about menstrual health and hygiene. That is important because it can keep girls in school longer. And we know that for every year a girl stays in school, she and her future children will be healthier, more nourished and fitter.”
A Future Filled With Hope
As she looks back on her achievements, Therese is filled with hope and sees so many promising opportunities for UNICEF and its supporters to do even more for children around the world. “I’m really hopeful for the future. I think if you look at the journey of water, sanitation and hygiene over the past, there’s been such incredible advances made and there’s been so many more people reached.”
“Throughout my career, when I’ve thought about Ireland and how it links to my work and one particular thing always resonated with me. In Ireland, most people now live in nice houses, probably with two or three bathrooms, but it is not that long ago that 40% of our population was using outside toilets. And some people didn’t have any! I think that has been one of the motivating factors for me. If Ireland can do it in a generation, with the right support, any country can do it.”
Leave a Lasting Legacy
Gifts in Wills are vital to UNICEF for ongoing programmes like WASH in addition to providing life-saving funding to preposition critical supplies for humanitarian emergencies, allowing UNICEF teams to respond at speed and at scale to save children’s lives.
You can learn more about how you can rewrite a child’s future through including a gift in your Will from Pauline, Legacy Gifts Manager or visit: unicef.ie/legacy
UNICEF works in over 100 countries to help provide access to clean water and reliable sanitation. Almost 70 million people gained access to safe drinking water between 2018 and 2021 through UNICEF-supported programmes.
Contact Pauline to learn more
You can talk in confidence to our Legacy Gifts Manager, Pauline who will help guide you in writing your Will and send you information on our Legacy Giving programme.
Phone: 01 878 3000