Feminism and equality are two of the most talked-about issues in the modern world right now, and rightly so. We’re used to hearing calls for equal pay and fair representation of women in all facets of everyday life, but one thing we may not think of when we talk about women’s struggles, is water.
And yet, in the developing world, the simple commodity that we all take for granted but couldn’t exist without, could literally mean life or death for millions of women. As the Huffington Post stated in 2013, ‘The global water crisis isn’t just about simple supply and demand – it’s an issue related to women’s rights, global development and preventable deaths.’ The connection between water availability and quality of life for women in Africa and parts of Asia is unbreakable – in Africa alone, women and children spend 40 billion hours per year collecting water for their families to drink, cook with and bathe in, and often, it’s dangerously unclean.
Sustenance isn’t the only way a lack of water affects the lives of millions of women across the globe – we look at some of the other areas of their lives it impacts on.
There’s no need to be squeamish about it. The time of the month, Mother Nature’s visit, whatever you want to call it – it happens to all women, but sanitary products are a luxury we in the developed world take for granted. Jan Eliasson, the deputy chief of the UN, said recently that 37 percent of the world’s population don’t have access to safe water or toilets. When you’re a menstruating woman, this is obviously problematic, and makes dealing with something that should be a manageable body function difficult, embarrassing and needlessly traumatic.
A lack of available toilets means that the only place to ‘go’ for some women and girls in parts of Africa and Asia is a secluded spot outdoors. Often, they’re subjected to sexual assault and rape while simply looking for a place to do the most basic of bodily functions. The Times of India reported last year that 95 percent of sexual crimes in the country take place when women are ‘looking for a place to answer the call of nature’. Accessible indoor toilets would greatly reduce horrific statistics like these.
When women are walking three hours each way from their homes to find a water source, it leaves little time for them to attend school. Often, school buildings lack gendered toilet facilities, meaning menstruating women face another challenge – deal with their periods in shared, unsanitary toilets or miss school for a few days every month. The time off soon adds up, and means that girls in developing countries have roughly a 73 percent or lower attendance rate at school, which can vastly affect their prospects for the future.
New mothers need safe, sterile conditions to properly care for their babies, but where access to clean water is scarce, this isn’t possible. Mothers may already be unhealthy and malnourished from drinking dirty water, making it harder for them to breastfeed and care for their newborns. Babies born into these kind of conditions are six times more likely to die in the first few weeks of their life than those born in the developed world, and the lack of clean water is a key factor in these statistics.
Although the lack of safe water affects men, women and children, it’s undeniable that societal expectations of women in developing countries, not to mention human anatomy, mean that women are feeling the struggle on a greater scale. We believe this can be changed for the better, and are committed to providing a simple solution that’ll give those 783 million people without access to clean water a brighter future.