Access to clean water: essential for women’s health and safety

In much of the world, women and girls are traditionally responsible for household water supply and sanitation, and maintaining a hygienic home environment.

On average 72% of household water is collected by women and 14% by children.

When water sources are far away, this means walking long distances, often away from main roads, which can mean increased vulnerability to violence and less time for other activities like attending school or involvement in income-generating activities.

For example, during a five month period in West and South Darfur, 82% of almost 500 women treated for rape were attacked while undertaking daily activities, such as gathering water or firewood.  Gender roles can make it difficult for women to access and control water resources, which can further complicate their work and ability to collect and use water.

About 1.3 billion women and girls in the world lack access to a proper toilet. In some cultural settings, women and girls have to rise before dawn, making their way in the darkness to fields, railroad tracks and roadsides to defecate in the open, knowing they may risk rape or other violence. 

In such circumstances women and girls often go the whole day without relieving themselves, sometimes limiting their daily intake of food and water so they are able to wait until night provides them with the privacy of darkness. Poor sanitation impacts on health, productivity and dignity.

Diarrhoeal diseases caused by lack of access to a clean water source can lead to malnutrition and chronic health problems. Women spend much of their time looking after sick children and their money on medicines. World Vision’s projects recognise that it is essential that women receive hygiene and health promotion training so that the burden of illness can be reduced and so they have more money to spend on food, school fees and livelihoods. 

Medecins sans Frontieres, “The crushing burden of rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur”, (2005)

Women shoulder the responsibility of collecting household water