Women and girls around the world are disproportionately affected by the lack of safe water and sanitation. When the needs of women and children are not taken into account the effects will be felt far and wide expanding across education, health, security, and economic sectors.
- Girls who have reached puberty and female school staff, who are menstruating, need gender specific sanitation facilities. Without the privacy afforded by these facilities, students will not use school facilities, resulting in absenteeism 10-20 percent of the time.1
- Women and young girls spend much of their time collecting and transporting water for their families—often over 6 kilometers daily—and finding adequate sanitation.
- Collecting water not only consumes up to 26 percent of a woman or young girl’s time, it also subjects them to adverse health effects from carrying 40 pound water containers on their heads, hips or backs.2
- When latrines are not available, women and girls will seek privacy after dark to defecate outside of their village exposing them to a greater risk of harassment and sexual assault. Out of fear, many women and girls may choose to ignore their needs increasing the likelihood of urinary tract infections, chronic constipation or mental stress.3
- Women account for two-thirds of global illiteracy.4 Lack of adequate sanitation facilities in schools results in low levels of attendance among girls, perpetuating cycles of gender inequality and poverty.
Solutions that Work:
Empowering women to assure safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene has proven to be a sustainable solution for the entire community and gives everyone a chance to reap the health, economic and educational benefits.
- Women reinvest on average 90 percent of income generated in their families. Therefore water, sanitation, and hygiene projects with positive direct or indirect financial benefits for women will contribute to overall community development.5
- Women’s full participation in water and sanitation projects is strongly correlated with increased effectiveness and sustainability of these projects.6
- On average, every $1 spent on improving water and sanitation yields an economic return of $8 due to increases in productivity within the community.7
- WASH in schools improves the lives of schoolchildren by significantly reducing disease, increasing school attendance and learning achievements, and contributing to dignity and gender equality.8
 IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, ‘Adolescent Girls and School Hygiene, Sanitation and Water’, School Sanitation and Hygiene Education Notes & News, IRC, Delft, Netherlands, 2005. Cited in “Raising Clean Hands.”
 Global Water Challenge,“Regional WASH Profile on Africa.” 2011, http://www.globalwaterchallenge.org/newscenter/downloads/resources/Africa%20-%20Regional%20WASH%20Profile.pdf
 Amnesty International Risking Rape to Reach a Toilet: Women’s Experience in the Slums of Nairobi, Kenya. 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR32/006/2010/en/6eab2ee6-6d6c-4abd-b77c-38cfc7621635/afr320062010en.pdf; Alle, D and O. Drevet-Dabbou. Water, Gender and Sustainable Development: Lessons Learned from French Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Paris: Drevet-Dabbous Group de Recherché et d’Echanges Technologique, 2002.
 United Nations Development Program. “The Global Challenge: Goals and Targets”. 2004, http://www.undp.org/mdg.
 “Engendering Development,” and “Gender Equality as Smart Economics,” The World Bank; Buckingham-Hatfield, S. Gender and the Environment. 2000. New York: Routledge; Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.
 United Nations Water. Gender, Water and Sanitation: A Policy Brief 2008, http://www.unwater.org/downloads/unwpolbrief230606.pdf.
 Blanton, Elizabeth et al. “Evaluation of the Role of School Children in the Promotion of Point-of-Use Water Treatment and Handwashing in Schools and Households—Nyanza Province, Western Kenya, 2007.” American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 82(4), 2010, pp 664-671 and “Rationale: Why Invest in School Water, Sanitation and Hygiene?” SWASH+ Program in Western Kenya: http://www.washadvocates.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Summary-Rationale-for-School-WASH-Investments-Apr-11.pdf.