Why Gender Matters

By Judith Jideonwo-Water & Ecosystems Intern at White House Council on Environmental Quality

All over the world, women in developing countries bear the primary responsibility for retrieving water used for cooking, cleaning, bathing, washing, care of animals, food production, and waste disposal. Reportedly, women in developing countries spend 200 million work hours per day collecting water from distant and often polluted sources, returning to their villages carrying 40-pound jerry cans on their backs. In developing countries in Africa and Asia, women averagely walk up to 3.7 miles to get access to water. This is time not spent working at an income-generating job, caring for family members, or attending school. 60% of the women who walk for water live on less than $2 a day.

Often, women and girls get ill from these long walks for water, as bodies break down under the weight from carrying contaminated water. The implications from lack of clean water also go beyond immediate health issues. With so much time spent for water collection, many girls are unable to attend school, and they are at risk for increased injury, violence or animal attack as they travel long distances in rural areas in search of water.

So how does access to water change a community and improve women’s livelihoods? When a community receives access to safe water, women no longer spend 4 hours walking to retrieve polluted water but only a few minutes to get water that is safe to drink. Those fours a day can now be used on education; 11% more girls attend school when clean water and sanitation is available. Additionally, access to water improves a communities overall health and hygiene.

Investing in water means investing in women. Water projects that involve women in planning and management are proven more likely to succeed. Women have the motivation to keep the project running as well as the knowledge of the need and the process. Through investing in safe and accessible water sources in these areas, we can create a better future for women, and have a greater socio-economic impact in developing nations.


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