Though many areas of the world feel the impact of lack of clean water and sanitation, the people most effected by this are women. It may seem crazy to say women are most effected by lack of water, when millions of children and people (both male and female) die from diarrheal diseases everyday, however women DO feel the plight of water deprivation the worst.
From a young age, one of the main tasks of many girls in developing countries is fetching water. A woman’s job is to manage the family and provide for them and that means providing water. In many families, the mother hands over the task of water collecting to the daughter. For us this is a confusing concept and a task that has no place in our world, however in hundreds of countries the job is important and must be done. Girls spend on average six hours every day walking to and from water sources just so their family may have water for the day (WaterAid UK). The task is arduous and for many communities, the water source is located many miles away(WaterAid UK). Not only is the trip to water long and time consuming, but it can also be dangerous. Girls are stuck in this cycle of carrying water every day until they have their own daughters to send. These six hours spent every day collecting water, is six hours that these girls are not in school. Since water needs to be collected everyday, this means many girls do not have time to attend school. Without an education, no girl can ever truly have a hope of rising out poverty and making a better life for herself.
Another problem that causes thousands of girls to drop out of school is lack of sanitation. Because there is no sanitation, many girls do not attend school when they are menstruating because the schools lack separate bathrooms, hand washing facilities, and places to dispose of sanitary napkins (WaterAid UK). This causes the girls to fall behind by a substantial amount in their studies because they miss school for an entire week every month. If girls fall behind in school, and eventually drop out, their future will most likely be continued to be lived in poverty. However, if a girl receives even a few years of education, they will most likely have smaller, healthier, better educated families who will be more likely to work their way out of poverty (WaterAid UK).
If thousands are girls are unable to attend school because they either spend all day walking miles in order to collect water or because they are menstruating, then as women they are less likely to have a successful livelihood. If this many women are unable to contribute to their community positively this keeps their community in poverty and therefore the entire country suffers (WaterAid UK). Women not having the capacity to be educated and make a career for themselves means that a country’s economy is not able to prosper and keeps the entire country in poverty and continues the cycle of poverty and lack of water and sanitation.
Another problem that lack of water causes for women that I had never thought of is how dangerous it is for many women to use the bathroom. Many places lack private bathrooms which causes women to be too modest or embarrassed to use the bathroom during the day (WaterAid UK). This causes many women to not eat or drink all day until night when they can use the toilet in the cover of night (WaterAid UK). However, many women are attacked at night when going to use the bathroom. Many women are sexually assaulted, raped, and even killed (WaterAid UK). Many women risk getting raped just in order to use the toilet (Gosling). “The violence women can suffer over the simple right to go to the toilet is unacceptable. Simple, sustainable improvements can make a world of difference in supporting women to claim this most basic human right,” said Neeraj Jain, Chief Executive of WaterAid India (Gosling).
Though lack of clean water and sanitation is a huge problem in many countries, water is truly a woman’s problem. It is unbelievably sad how much a woman’s life is effected because she lacks the ability to access water, something we take advantage of every day. That women lose out on education and are even put in danger in order to use the toilet is horrendous. If more women were better able to access water and sanitation, many countries, I believe, would be able to pull themselves out of poverty and their economies would grow because of the introduction of women into careers.
“You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.” Jawaharal Nehru.
Here is a great video that outlines the problems women face everyday because of the lack of clean water and also shows some things the organization WaterAid UK is doing in order to find solutions.
Gosling, Louisa. “WaterAid – Risking Rape to Reach a Toilet in India’s Slums.” WaterAid – News and Media. WaterAid UK-Water Charity, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.wateraid.org/news/news/risking-rape-to-reach-a-toilet-in-india-slums>.
“WaterAid UK- The Crisis – Women.” WaterAid UK -The Crisis – Women. WaterAid UK, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.wateraid.org/uk/what-we-do/the-crisis/women#/u8P636QQ8kE>.