WATER AND SANITATION: A GENDER ISSUE
Written by~ Victoria Olanrewaju Benedict, Girl Advocate
Around the world, about 2.3 billion people lack access to basic sanitation, unshared household facilities that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact. According to Care Australia, women spend up to five hours walking an average of three-and-a-half miles every day simply to collect water. This impacts on their productivity significantly.
Everyone deserves the dignity of having a toilet and the right to water that won’t make them sick. However, it is women and girls that are affected by the lack of water and sanitation the most. Without safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities at home and in places of work and education, it is disproportionately harder for women and girls to lead safe, productive, healthy lives. Women have the primary responsibility for health, hygiene and sanitation for their families.
According to the United Nations, women play a role key in promoting sanitation. Lack of access to sanitation and water affects women's health greatly. We all know that women and girls bear the responsibility of collecting water for the household, they have to travel to a long distance just to collect water. In some countries, women spend up to five hours walking an average of three-and-a-half miles every day simply to collect water, aside the fact that this can be very time consuming and arduous, they might even be attacked or abused while walking to collect water. This also impacts their productivity significantly, it means that young girls spend their days walking long distances as part of their daily chores, when they could be in school receiving an education and even if they eventually go to school, they end up going late. Boys are not given the same gendered responsibilities so are more likely to have more time to go to work and school and prosper and thrive.
In some countries, a range of 23-41% of girls drop out when they start their period, or miss out on school during their periods and this is because women and girls have specific hygiene needs when they are menstruating and if this needs aren't met, it makes managing period hard for women and girls. This can also have an effect on their education, because they would miss out on classes and would cause a barrier to their education.
Lack of access to clean water and sanitation can also cause poor health, because women and girls are affected by water and sanitation issues and they are also more likely to be exposed to pathogens and toxins when it comes to reusing wastewater for growing food. This can have a collision with their health.
The importance of water for women is very huge. Embedding gender equity into policy at all levels will be crucial to achieving water and sanitation for all, which in turn will help advance many other parts of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, particularly education and work.
Fixing water inequality is a huge step to achieving full gender equality.