Women and girls around the world continue to be the most affected by lack of access to safe water and sanitation, particularly in rural communities where populations have the lowest access to these essential facilities. Improving access to clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene is therefore vital for women’s empowerment; a key issue to this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Empowering Rural Women!
In many societies it is women and girls’ responsibility to collect water. The long hours this requires every day means women and girls have less time to attend school and engage in economic activities. This severely limits female access to education and contributes to women’s marginal economic status, reinforcing gender inequalities in education and employment. Women’s traditional role in caring for the sick means their time is also restricted by frequent illness (both theirs and their family’s) caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.