Water for Women and Girls
By admin August 31, 2016

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World Water Week kicked off on Monday and the shortage of water across the world is being highlighted. In the world, one in ten people lack access to safe drinking water and one in three people lack access to improved sanitation facilities. The astounding number of people without access to safe water and sanitation prompted the Sustainable Development Goal to call for universal and equitable access to affordable drinking water by 2030. The UN is focusing on “Water for Sustainable Growth”, zeroing in on relationships between the lack of access to water and the social and economic opportunity costs associated with it. In particular, UNICEF is highlighting the cost from a lack of access to water on women and girls who shoulder the burden of finding and retrieving water for the family. Prevailing social inequalities pile on top of shortage, for women, as mainly men make decisions about water resources management and development at local and national decision-making levels.

For women, time taken to collect water shortens time available to spend with family, on childcare, basic household tasks, or in leisure activities. Moreover, water collection, even when retrieved from a safe drinking source, can affect the health of the whole family. Increased transport and storage time is associated with increased risk of disease by the time the water is drunk, particularly diarrheal disease. Lack of water in diet is also known as the leading cause of chronic malnutrition and stunting. For children, and girls in particular, water collection takes away from education opportunities at home and can prevent attendance of school altogether. Responsibility for fetching waters falls on girls due to social discrimination and lack of confidence from families in their ability to stay in school, as opposed to expectations for boys to stay in school. If girls are still allowed to attend school after attending late from fetching water, they are often too tired from the arduous chore to learn.

Aside from water collection at home, water shortage means that schools lack sanitary facilities properly equipped for females entering puberty. When girls enter puberty, they are often forced to skip classes or drop out of school because there are no separate toilets and no minimum of privacy. The widespread lack of latrines forces women and children to relieve themselves only in the nighttime. Night-time trips to fields and roadsides to defecate due to lack of private latrines puts women and girls at risk of being raped.

The UN estimates that almost 30 percent of sub-Saharan Africa only have improved drinking water sources that are 30 minutes or more away. Collectively, women and girls spend as much as 200 million hours every day collecting water, and each individual spend approximately 30 minutes round trip. Overall, there is an estimated 3.36 million children and 13.54 million adult females responsible for water collection. While access to water is itself a major issue, its following issues, including decreased education for girls and increased risk of sexual violence compound on existing large-scale social and economic issues.

To learn more:

At start of World Water Week, UNICEF highlights how women and girls lose valuable time and opportunities collecting water

Gender and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Water Sanitation Facts

Rural and Urban Water Issues in Africa

Basic education and gender equality

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