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Without access to water, women and girls across the world are left with no choice but to spend their days walking for water. Instead of going to school or work they trek for miles to the nearest water source, to collect water that isn’t even clean. This drudgery is repeated on a daily basis.

Why is it that women and girls collect water?

The burden of collecting water falls on women and girls because of the cultural norms within many poor communities. When boys are not at school, they often assist the men from the community in carrying out physical farming tasks.

For how long do women and girls walk?

Women and girls often spend up to six hours walking to collect water each day – which could be a single return journey or multiple journeys within the same day. The return journey is often exhausting as they will also be carrying up to 20 litres of water (that’s 20kg in weight).

In my community, women have to walk 12 km each way to get water. There is always a line and it takes two to three hours to fill all my jerry cans, lifting buckets out of the borehole. – Zenaba Abderrahaman, Chad

Where do they collect the water from?

Water is collected from the nearest available source, be that a river, lake, well or borehole – but the nearest source may be located many miles away. How far they walk will also change depending on the season, for example in the dry season the river might dry up and the community will need to walk further.

What are the physical dangers for women and girls?

In many parts of the world even very young girls carry around 20 litres at a time (1 litre = 1 Kg) – the same weight as your holiday luggage allowance. This physical burden is compounded by the risk of wild animal attack, or sexual attack, including rape in some cases. The danger of picking up a water-borne illness is another very real risk, particularly when the water source is shared by livestock. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease. Children who drink unsafe water commonly have a weaker immune system, leaving them more susceptible to contracting other diseases in future.

Women and girls walking for water

What is the social impact of women and girls collecting water?

Without the time to go to work or 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. Additionally, spending hours walking and purifying water means they’re unable to help with farming activities, reducing the family’s output and perpetuating poverty further.

Why don’t the families just move closer to the water?

Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just moving nearer to water. Those born into poverty often do not have the means to move, which can trap them in a long-term cycle of poverty. In countries like Ethiopia, many people lead a nomadic lifestyle, moving roughly every six months, however the land on which boreholes and other man-made water sources are built is often privately owned land so they are unable to live close by.

Ambie's Story 

Ambie lives in a village in Ethiopia where access to water is dangerously scarce. She is just 10 years old, but instead of going to school, she spends her days walking to collect water for her family. Ambie dreams of becoming a nurse, but until she has time for school this will remain a dream.​

“I wish I could go to school, but I have to walk and that is the way it is."

But it doesn't have to be this way. Join Walk In Her Shoes and you can change the lives of girls like Ambie, giving them the chance to fulfil their potential and find a better future.

 

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