If You're Reading This Then Your Water Tap Is Probably Your Greatest Luxury
In African countries where water is scarce, 700 million women and girls spend their days searching for water and carrying it back home for their families.
Instead of sending their daughters to school, many parents give them this task. Patriarchal cultural norms within many poor communities mean the burden of collecting water falls almost entirely on the heads and shoulders of the females within a family. Women and girls often spend up to six hours individually (200 million collectively) walking to collect water each day – this could be a single return journey or multiple journeys within the same day. The return journey is even more arduous as they are carrying up to 20 litres of water (that’s 20kg, the same weight as your holiday luggage allowance).
The time lost, the physical burden, and the dangers of water collection have many consequences. Rape is not uncommon. In addition to suffering depression, anxiety, and PTSD without access to professional help, medication or even the freedom to talk about what has happened to them these victims become “damaged goods” within their communities.
Many husbands divorce wives who’ve experienced the horror of rape.
In cultures where virginity has a value and marriage and motherhood are the only recognized roles available to females, a girl without marital prospects or a woman without a husband must rely on her family--if they haven’t shunned her-- who themselves can’t feed one more person.
Without the time to attend school, women and girls are unable to change their prospects for the future and break out of the cycle of poverty. Their absence while collecting water also results in them being denied a voice in community decision-making.
And the horrors don’t end there. Animal attacks are common during water collection, and if they get mauled and disfigured, girls' prospects for marriage diminish greatly, and women are sometimes abandoned by their husbands.
The danger of picking up a water-borne illness is another very real risk, particularly when the water source is shared by livestock.
In Africa a child dies from a water-related disease every 90 seconds.
It’s worth reminding ourselves: You and I are no more deserving of clean water and an education than any other woman or child, we’re just luckier. We who by the randomness of the square mile into which we were fortunate enough to be born are perfectly and morally positioned to support efforts to make clean water easily accessible to every single citizen of the world.
Below is a list of the most effective organizations working tirelessly to make clean water a right and not a privilege.
Article by Anna Quick-Palmer