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London schoolgirls experience the struggle of collecting water

This June, a group of London schoolgirls recreated the arduous journey millions of women and girls make every day, as part of our To be a girl campaign.

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18 Jun 2014 | UK

This summer, a group of London schoolgirls came a step closer to experiencing what life is like for millions of women and girls in the developing world.

As part of our To be a girl campaign, pupils from the Lilian Baylis school in Lambeth got up at the crack of dawn and faced the arduous task of walking to the River Thames to collect water.

"We got up at 5am to come down to the river and fill big jerry cans with water," says Kimberley Bailey, 11.

"Normally at that time I would still be asleep or getting ready for school and having my breakfast. Not collecting water that I wouldn't even want to drink.

"The jerry can was only half full, but I couldn't even lift it – I can’t imagine carrying such a heavy weight all the way back home."

Our To be a girl campaign highlights the fact that, while lack of access to safe water and decent toilets affects everyone, women and girls are impacted the most.

In many developing countries, girls carry the burden of collecting their families' water. As well as consuming up to a quarter of their time, putting their education at risk, the task can also involve covering distances of up to ten kilometres and carrying water weighing an average of 20kg, the same as some young girls’ body weight.

In many cases, the water itself is not even safe to drink. As a result, around 250,000 girls die every year – more than 700 a day – from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Changing the story for girls

This summer, we're calling for donations to our To be a girl campaign, to help reach 130,000 girls with clean water and decent toilets.

Every donation received by 9 September will also be matched pound for pound by the UK Government – doubling the difference for girls around the world.

Find out why we're changing what it means To be a girl this summer >