Turn the page on poverty

Women and water

In most developing countries the task of collecting water usually falls to women. They often walk long distances and spend many hours of every day collecting water for their families.

Asha Rashid collects water from a traditional well in her village in Tanzania. Even though it is poor quality, Asha uses this water because it is close to home. She collects water five times a day, filling two buckets each time.
Photo: Jim Holmes/WaterAid

The water they collect is often taken from dirty and polluted sources. The containers they carry usually hold about 20 litres of water and weigh 20kg – the same as the baggage allowance on most airlines.

Health and dignity
Ill-health caused by unsafe water impacts greatly on women's lives. It is usually women who nurse the sick and take the children to the doctor. Ill-health adds to an already over-burdened day. Women have to juggle their time to carry out all the domestic and income-generating work for which they are also responsible.

Women living without somewhere safe and clean to go to the toilet often need to wait until dark to relieve themselves with at least some privacy, exposing them to considerable danger, discomfort and risk of disease.

For women everywhere, having clean and accessible water and toilet facilities not only means improved health for themselves and the whole family but also means being able to live with dignity. It allows them more time for work, for looking after their children or simply to get some rest.

"A nearby water source would make such a difference."

Rachel Anton is 18 years old and lives in Inoneiwa village, Tanzania:

“I usually have to wait in line for three hours or more, under a scorching-hot sun, for my turn to collect water. On some days I wait from 5am until 11pm. In the dry season the nearest water source is a long way away. I would be so much happier if there was water nearer to home.

“I try to fill four buckets with water that we use for drinking, cooking and other household tasks. I share the water with my husband and son. My family often has stomach sickness which I think is caused by drinking dirty water. With clean water close to home my whole family will be healthier and I’ll have much more time to cook, to spend with the children and to do all the housework.”