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How the Global Water Crisis Impacts Women and Girls

Water Rights are Women's Rights

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It starts when they are four, sometimes younger, joining the older girls and women walking miles each day for clean water for their families. From there, every aspect of a young girl’s life—schooling, physical safety, health, economic opportunity, safe childbirth—is impacted by the lack of access to safe water and sanitation.

Adding to that, climate change—and how it affects water supply and sanitation issues—has a greater impact on girls and women than on men. When you’re already the one walking miles to collect water, a drought or flooding complicates that task even more.

"By failing women and girls, we risk the 2030 Agenda. Access to water and sanitation are human rights. Where females are unable to enjoy those rights, their health is profoundly affected, curtailing their educational and economic opportunities, and denying them their full role in society." – UN Water

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Collectively, women and girls spend 200 million hours each day collecting water, and those living without a toilet spend over 250 million hours each day finding a place to go.¹

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In one Kenyan study 95% of menstruating girls missed 1-3 school days a month, 70% reported a negative impact on their grades, and over 50% stated falling behind in school due to menstruation.²

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1 million deaths each year are associated with unclean births. Infections account for 26% of neonatal deaths and 11% of maternal mortality.³

THIS IS WHAT INJUSTICE LOOKS LIKE

Some Indian Women Have No Choice but to Hold It In

Researchers found that among women without proper toilet access, more than 21 percent reported holding in their urine and more than 26 percent said they modify their meals to avoid using the toilets at night.

Women's Water Insecurity Is a Global Health Crisis

Women’s water insecurity is a global health crisis that impacts a multitude of regions, and disproportionately impacts women of color, low-income women, and children. Women are inordinately affected by failures in the global water system.

We Can't Fight Climate Change Without Fighting for Gender Equity

A comprehensive report from United Nations (UN) Women found that women are disproportionately impacted by most if not all of the challenges highlighted in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

THIS IS THE WORK WE'RE DOING

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Breaking the Silence Around Menstrual Hygiene

In communities around the world, conversations about menstruation are taboo or even forbidden. Read about how we're working with schools in Malawi to bring context-specific menstrual hygiene education to rural communities.

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Actively Engaging Women to Solve the Global Water Crisis

In our experience, the active participation of women enhances solutions to help end the global water crisis. Read about how we're empowering women with strong roles in water, sanitation, and hygiene work.

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Women Raising their Voices for Behavior Change through Videos

In rural India, we partnered with a local group that uses media to give a voice to marginalized groups. Read about a series of videography workshops for women and girls to create connection and education around the social context of water in their village.

What We Can All Do

RECOGNIZE THE INTERSECTION OF WATER AND GENDER

"Having women do this work is very vital. It brings more ownership." The roles women play in water issues for their families and communities are entwined with the inequality that leaves them walking miles each day for water, missing school or work because of periods, and unable to take on economic opportunities because of the demands of collecting water. Read more about how Water For People is addressing this issue.

ENCOURAGE GENDER EQUITY IN POLICIES AT ALL LEVELS

"When women engage in shaping water policies and institutions, communities have greater and more sustainable access to water services." Read more about how the global water crisis and gender equity are inextricably linked – but solvable. 

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