The issue explained

Imagine a life without safe water flowing from your tap.

Imagine then, if every morning you had to get up at dawn and walk for miles down uneven trails to the nearest water hole to collect your family's water – water that could pass on deadly diseases to you or your children.

Imagine that you spend six hours every day collecting enough water for your family.

Now imagine that you have nowhere safe and private to go to the toilet. You may have to wait until it's dark before you can finally go. But this exposes you to the risk of sexual harassment, assault and animal attacks, never mind the discomfort and loss of dignity.

This is the daily reality of life for many women in developing countries.

Perhaps the biggest issue though, aside from the obvious health risks, is that without access to sanitation while at school, far fewer women gain an education and become decision-makers in their community. Yet we know that even just a few years of basic education results in women having smaller, healthier, better educated families which are more able to work their way out of poverty.

Providing clean and accessible water and toilet facilities not only prevents needless drudgery and indignity, but improves the health of the whole family. Women's time is freed up for agriculture or other income-generating work, looking after children and leisure time.

Our approach

Women are key to successful projects. Experience shows that women place a high priority on water supply and work very hard to design, implement and manage projects, because they understand what a difference having these facilities will make. We ensure that women are consulted about their preferences for project design, especially where taps and toilets should be sited.

Women's knowledge about water sources is particularly valuable. Because they usually collect the water, women will know where the best water sources are and in which month they usually dry up.

We believe in involving women in projects not only because it helps make the work sustainable but also, and perhaps more importantly, because it has a positive impact on women's positions in the community.

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

Ultimately, they gain confidence and become stronger and more respected.

Find out more about the issues involved in our work:

Children | Financing | Governance | Health | Hygiene | Social exclusion | Sustainability | Urban