Girls and women are particularly affected when communities lack clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. 

Why are girls and women worst affected by a lack of clean water?

Typically responsible for unpaid domestic work, girls and women are often expected to collect water from unsafe sources like rivers, streams and holes in the ground. 

Carrying full water containers, as heavy as 20kg, on their heads or backs leaves its mark on them physically, contorting their spines and leading to problems in childbirth and later in life. 

Collecting water – often for hours every day – can make them late for school or unable to work, putting them at a disadvantage to men and boys. 

And drinking, cooking and washing with this dirty water exposes them to deadly diarrhoeal diseases every day.

Why are decent toilets and good hygiene particularly important for those who menstruate?

Not having a decent toilet at home or in public places can be especially difficult for people who have periods

It can put them at increased risk of harassment and physical and sexual violence while going to the toilet in the open. 

It makes managing their periods much more challenging, causing children to miss school or people to miss out on earning opportunities.

Without clean water, soap or a toilet, keeping themselves and their family healthy is incredibly difficult.

To be

"My dream was to become a doctor or a teacher." 18 year old Azmatun dropped out of school to help her family collect water.

WaterAid/ Prashanth Vishwanathan

To have your

“Periods shouldn't come in the way of us achieving our dreams. I don’t think any child should miss a school day because she is a girl.” – Melal, 15, Ethiopia

Behailu Shiferaw

To be

“My daughter is growing up. She needs privacy in the toilet but sending her to a shared one with no door locks is worrying,” - Sanjida’s mother Nazma.

Adam Ferguson

How being part of the conversation on clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene empowers girls and women

Too often, girls and women are excluded from decision-making around water and toilets, because of traditional gender roles and power structures. 

Those in control of designing, supplying and funding water and sanitation services are more likely to be men. 

As a result, improvements to services fail to address the perspectives and daily challenges girls, women and those who menstruate face, and they continue to be denied access to opportunities.

Empowering women through business

By giving women the resources and skills to build their own businesses, we’re helping them find the confidence to voice their needs, join in decision making and be more independent.

WaterAid/ Guilhem Alandry

Ready to make a difference? Just £2 a month can transform lives for girls and women.

Find out what makes a public toilet 'female-friendly' 

And find more gender-focused publications on our policy and practice website.

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