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Desiree Buitenbos

3 ways clean water can help girls & women realize their rights

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Water is an essential part of life, yet many of us take it for granted. We simply turn on a nearby tap and out flows safe, clean H2O for our everyday needs.

But in many developing countries, water is often found kilometres away, and even then, it’s not always safe to drink. In fact, 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water at home.

Imagine: that’s more than a quarter of the world’s entire population.

In communities with limited or no access to water, the burden of collecting it often falls on girls and women. On average, they can spend 25% of their day – or up to 6 hours – fetching heavy loads water for their families.

girl carrying water bucket from home

But what happens when you increase access to clean water for families?

Aside from the obvious benefits like increased health and reduced illness, clean water can help open the doors for girls and women to unleash their full potential! Here are 3 ways clean water can help girls and women realize their rights around the world.

1. Helps girls stay in school and avoid child marriage

When girls are spending 6 hours per day collecting water for their families, they may be too exhausted to attend class and focus, or may not have the time, making it challenging to learn.

If a girl is consistently absent or late due to water collection, she might also fall behind on her lessons, providing less incentive to continue her studies and leading her to eventually drop out.

So how does clean water help change this?

It’s simple. When girls have access to clean water either at home, at their school or within their community, a 6-hour journey to collect water is dramatically reduced to minutes, enabling them to attend school.

With an education comes opportunity and, according to research, girls who stay in school are less likely to become child brides or become pregnant as teenagers. An education protects girls, helping them become empowered women who decide their own futures.

2. Reduces maternal and newborn mortality rates

Without access to clean water, girls and women face health risks in pregnancy, during childbirth and in the postpartum period.

Around the globe, 44 million pregnant women have hookworm infections due to a lack of clean water and sanitation. Hookworm, an intestinal parasite, puts a mother and her child at risk for poor birth outcomes, such as anemia in the woman, low birth weight and congenital defects in the newborn, and even death. Diarrhea is also a serious risk factor as it can seriously dehydrate and weaken the mother.

pregnant woman sitting with hands on stomach

Access to clean water at health facilities can also play a crucial role in preventing illness and infection by improving hygiene. Without water for hand- and equipment-washing HIV, tetanus and other infections can be introduced to the uterus during childbirth, especially C-sections. The consequences of these infections can be devastating, and in some cases, deadly. But they can be avoided by having a clean water source.

3. Protects girls & women from danger and harassment

Girls and women often travel far from home through desolate and treacherous terrain to reach a water source. Sexual violence and harassment is a serious threat as many girls and women leave in the early morning hours before the sun has risen. In addition, wild animals and snakes can pose danger along the way.

When clean water is available nearby, these risks are greatly reduced.

girl walking, blurred man talking to her

Clean water can help girls in crisis

COVID-19 continues to unravel decades of hard-fought progress for girls’ rights – and the longer they go without support, the worse it gets. Clean water can help millions of girls and women around the world unleash their full potential.

Learn more on how you can help us stop the clock and Stop the Setback for girls, before it’s too late. You can help girls access the supports they need to take back control of their lives, go back to school, live free from violence, decide their own futures and provide clean water for families.

Learn more about stopping the setback