The issue explained

The effects of a lack of safe water and sanitation are felt most by women and girls. Girls often begin collecting unsafe water as children and continue to collect and carry water throughout their lives.

Many girls spend six hours a day collecting water there often just isn’t time to go to school much. Those that do go often drop out when they start to menstruate because there isn’t anywhere to keep clean.

Without a safe, private place to go to the toilet, many women only go at night, when the risk of assault, sexual harassment or animal attacks is increased. This is the daily reality of life for many women in developing countries.

But there are many other challenges for women without safe water, sanitation or hygiene. Below are some of the main issues:

Young boy looking at the camera

6 year old Zafu Berha and 10 year old Genet Berha on their way back after collecting water in the village of Abyeto, Tigray, Ethiopia, 2013.
Collecting water from distant, unsafe sources can take several hours a day. In many cultures, women are responsible for running their household so collecting water is their responsibility.

Yet we know that even just a few years of basic education result in women having smaller, healthier, better educated families, which are more able to work their way out of poverty.

Noella's story
Without water in school, dehydration often sets in and it becomes hard to concentrate.

Anja, 16 years old, proud to pose in front of her newly built toilet. Ambohimasina village, Talatan’ Angavo commune, Ankazobe district, Analamanga region, Madagascar. October 2013.
During adolescence, girls suffer most without a clean, private place to go to the toilet and manage their periods. Without separate toilets, handwashing facilities and somewhere to dispose of sanitary napkins, they are likely to miss school or drop out entirely.

Pregnant Etalem Tinishu carries a jerrycan full of dirty water back home, Lahyte, Konso, Ethiopia, 2012.
In the long-term, a lack of water and sanitation can have an impact on overall and reproductive health. During pregnancy, women are under extra strain if they carry heavy water containers over long distances.

Women in Africa and Asia often carry water on their heads weighing 20kg.

Midwife Mariam Baye attends to a woman and her baby at the Centre de Santé et Promotion Sociale, which has limited access to water, Polesgo, province of Non-Gremasson, Burkina Faso.
Poor sanitation and hygiene also increases the risk of sepsis and bleeding during and after childbirth.

Ayelach's story
Women who have their children without access to safe water are at further risk of illness and infection.

Noeline Razanajafy, President of Tapstand 11, watering her crops, Alakamisy, Soavina, Madagascar, 2012.
If a lack of safe water forces girls to drop out of school without a basic education, they are less able to contribute to their household or community economically.

Vida's story
Easy access to clean water and safe sanitation frees women’s time, enabling them to start their own businesses and earn a living.

Bashona Sharkar smiling and holding books in her hand
Our experience shows that involving women in planning and implementing water and sanitation projects makes them more successful. Because women usually collect water, they know where the best sources are and which ones are likely to dry up.

By having an important and public role as a health promoter or water committee member, a woman's skills and reputation within the community are also enhanced.

This bridge joins two areas of the community together. The banks are oftern used as a dumping ground for waste, and if people have constructed their own make-shift toilets, quite often they are situated along the banks, where children often play, Kamla Nehru Nagar, India.
Without a private, hygienic place to go to the toilet, many women will try not to eat or drink during the day. They often wait until nightfall to go in the open, risking physical and sexual attack.

Sandimhia Renato, with her daughter Diani on the bridge, 7 de Abril, Quelimane, Zambezia, Mozambique
Sandimhia lives in Quelimane, Mozambique. She has cross a makeshift bridge to reach a bush area to go to the toilet.

She says, ‘I come here once a day, between 4 and 5 pm. At night it is very dangerous. People get killed. A woman and a boy were killed with knives. One woman I know of has been raped. I had to go over the bridge once when I was pregnant – I was three months pregnant then."