Like me, most people often take access to water for granted. Turn on the tap and water gushes out. We never have to choose between using water for the dishes or the laundry. Neither do we have to trek miles to source for water. Why should we do that in 2017? Surely, no one has to think about water right? WRONG.
You see not everyone is as fortunate as we are. About 783 million people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide. Out of this number, 319 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without access to improved reliable drinking water sources.
These facts come to light as on 22nd March World Water Day was celebrated globally. The event is held annually to raise awareness and focus on the issue of water and its importance.
It is difficult to discuss water and not talk about Africa. This is as the continent faces some of the most acute and devastating water problems in the world. In Africa and other countries, women and girls are seen as homemakers and are therefore responsible for finding and collecting water for their families.
According to data from The Water Project, about 64% of households rely on women when there is no water source in the home. These women walk long miles to access water that is often unsafe to drink. The United Nations estimates that
The United Nations estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water, the same as an entire year’s labor in all of France.
The dependence on women and girls to source for water has led to a situation where young girls often miss school to collect water for their families, compromising their education and potential future.
Also, in search for water, women and girls are often faced with physical injury from constant lifting and carrying of heavy loads of water, are at risk of rape and sexual assault among others.
Another important issue related to access to water that must not be forgotten is sanitation.
Without access to water, adequate sanitation becomes difficult. For instance, girls are unable to manage their menstruation safely and with dignity and are prone to failing or dropping out of school as a result.In some countries lack of sanitation costs women and girls their safety and often times their lives.
Therefore, it is sad that providing access to clean water is not a priority for most governments in Africa.
This is despite the fact that better provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene services and education help women and girls break out from a life of fetching water and this means more time on their own, setting their own agendas and living their own lives.
On the importance of having access to water, Jane Wilbur, Equity, Inclusion and Rights Advisor, WaterAid says
Water is critical at every stage of a woman’s life. The relationship between water and women’s time runs deep. At every stage in life, the absence of safe water robs women of opportunity and even life itself.
Whatever you decide just take action.
Every woman counts. Every second counts.