Women and children are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to water and sanitation. Having access to clean water and basic toilets is essential, especially to vulnerable groups as children. Without these basic needs children’s lives and development are at risk. Water- and sanitation-related diseases are a leading cause of death among young children. These are preventable diseases caused by poor water quality and a lack of sanitation.
The responsibility of collecting water is another crucial factor in the situation women and children face, as women and girls shoulder the responsibility for water collection in 8 out of 10 households, where water is not on the premise. Consequently, this often means carrying heavy loads while travelling long distances, which takes a long time. This is time that could be spent on income generating activities, housework or childcare, and for girls – time that could be spent in school. If the time it takes to go and collect water is reduced, then girl’s ability to attend school can increase. As was the case in Tanzania, where reducing the time just from 30 to 15 minutes increased girls’ attendance in school by 12%.
Girls’ attendance in school is negatively affected by a lack of single-gender sanitation facilities, especially in puberty. Menstruating girls (and school staff) who do not feel comfortable using the school sanitation facilities are absentee from school up to 20% of the time. The lack of latrines in the homes causes additional stress, as women and girls become more vulnerable to abuse and attack while walking to and using toilets off premise or open defecation sites.
The 1st World Summit on Leaving No One Behind recognises that ensuring that no one is left behind requires higher emphasis on investments aimed at the hardest-to-reach people and groups. For this reason, two of the six themes of the World Summit on Leaving No One Behind are on Women and Children. The Summit calls for ideas for projects that can help solve the issues related to water and sanitation for Women:
- Technologies that are geared to benefit women
- Initiatives to benefit women’s safety, inclusion and participation
- Water and sanitation safety technologies that help boys and girls in schools, hospitals, homes
- Governance ideas to reduce children’s susceptibility to water borne diseases
If you have an idea for a project, please submit an abstract by October 30th for the opportunity to present your idea and have the chance to receive seed funding to initiate your project. More information on the Summit and how to submit an abstract is available at www.waterlex.org/summit.