When it comes to water, most of us have it easy. Just one swipe of the tap and water is instantly at our disposal. Accessing water isn’t something people in wealthy countries associate with personal danger. Yet, the women and girls living in a developing country face harassment, kidnappings, sexual assaults, and even death on their daily treks to and from water sources.
The task of fetching water almost always falls to women and girls, who frequently spend hours each day just traveling to and from the nearest water source. A 2018 study estimated that collectively, women and girls spend 200 million hours fetching water every day. Many women and girls have to make several trips a day to collect enough water, so the time spent can average four to six hours a day—an enormous investment of time.
One round trip to collect water can take anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour every day. And it’s not an easy journey. It often includes traveling over uneven terrain, making it easy for women and girls to stumble or fall, especially on the trip home when carrying heavy vessels filled with water. The topography can also be home to poisonous snakes and other wild animals that lie in wait in tall grass.
Vulnerable Targets for Violence
Along the journey, women and girls are vulnerable and easy targets for sexual and physical attacks. They can also be subjected to tensions and domestic violence over the amount of water they bring home or the time spent collecting it. As a result, it can be difficult to access reliable data on the number of incidents. Even still, there are many stories of girls and women who have experienced violence in their water collection duties.
One young girl’s story highlights the shame associated with being the victim of a sexual attack during her daily water collection journey. She explained that she encountered six men who had been drinking alcohol as she traveled to get water for her family. They verbally harassed her, punched her, carried her into the bush, and gang-raped her. They left her there and threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone.
She was ashamed and felt she couldn’t tell her family because she would bring shame to them. She also felt she couldn’t trust the police and would have to live with the shame for the rest of her life. Because her family depends on her for water, she still has to continue to make the daily trip and lives in fear of another attack. Sadly, her experience is not uncommon.
Making Water Collection Safe for Women and Girls
Drilling wells and installing BioSand filters are one way to eliminate the need for women and girls to spend hours on water collection and jeopardize their safety. Thirst Relief International works with an extensive network of partners to bring clean water to communities.
Thirst Relief’s partnerships with SON International in Tanzania, Xingu Mission in Brazil, and Connect in Uganda have installed BioSand filters in thousands of communities to deliver clean water. And its partnership with Serve The Women and Poor in India provides Borehole Wells and stand taps that enable thousands of people to have reliable access to clean water without endangering women and girls’ lives.
Minimum Cost, Maximum Safety
How much is the safety of women and girls worth? How much would you be willing to pay to ensure that your wife, daughter, or granddaughter weren’t attacked just to secure water? One bore well in India costs up to $1,350 and supplies clean water to up to 2,000 people. BioSand filters cost only $100 to provide clean water to ten or more people.
For pennies a day, we can put a stop to the potential dangers women and girls face each time they collect water. There are so many ways you can help. Whether you make a cash donation, create a fundraising event, donate a vehicle or boat, or participate in an existing fundraiser, your donation will protect women and girls. Even simply sharing the message with friends, family, and associates can help.