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Water & Sanitation

A Walk in Women's Shoes - The Journey for Water

A woman carries heavy buckets of water back from a standpipe, Ban Chaling, Dakcheung, near Sekong, Lao PDR. Photo: Jim Holmes for AusAID.
Jim Holmes for AusAID.

Close your eyes and think of the closest source of water to you — a shower, the kitchen sink, a hose or maybe the swimming pool in your backyard. How far is it from you? 10 steps? Maybe 20? How about the length of two football fields?

Two football fields is the average distance women and children in sub-Saharan Africa trek every day carrying buckets full of water weighing 40 pounds to provide clean water for their families. This journey is physically and emotionally tolling. It is also time consuming and potentially dangerous for women and children.

Around the world, girls and women spend an estimated 200 million hours every single day collecting water. In addition to danger and susceptibility to injury, the young girls responsible for supplying water to their families are unable to attend school. And when it comes to education, there is a direct link between access to clean water and attendance rates.

Read More: Girls Waste 200 Million Hours Collecting Water

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According to UNICEF, girls’ enrollment rates increase by 15 percent when they are provided with access to clean water.

A study found that fetching water costs around $20 (USD) per month, which is higher than the average household water bill in the US. These high expenses are a result of purchasing water from vendors and treating waterborne illnesses.

Did you know?

+ The average American uses 100 gallons of water each day

+ Water-related diseases cause more than 3.4 million deaths each year

+ 663 million people do not have access to clean water

+ In 2014, the bottled water industry made $13 billion but it would only take $10 billion to provide clean water to the world

What’s being done?

Political cartoon artist Jean Gouders reimagined a world where girls were carrying books, not water. There are two images side by side. The first image depicts a young girl carrying a jug of water and having more than four miles to go to get back home. In the image next to it, the same young girl is carrying books walking past a sign pointing her in the direction of her school.

Gouders told The Huffington Post that he hopes his image conveys that “simple things,” such as a water tap, can have a major impact on improving girls’ access to water and education.

Aid groups and government officials are working hard to achieve Goal 6 of the Sustainable Developmental Goals, which is to provide access and clean water to all.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Global Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation ​

A photo posted by UNICEF Water (@unicefwater) on

A video posted by water (@water) on

In 2016, the annual World Water Week will take place in Stockholm, Sweden, from Aug. 28 through Sept. 2. The theme this year is Water for Sustainable Growth. The week-long event will consist of several events and activities covering a range of topics such as gender issues, climate change, and of course, water.

What can you do?

Conserve water. This is critical to universal access to clean water. In many places, water is being pumped out of the ground faster than it can be replenished, leaving many people without water. Water conservation allows water supplies to be distributed and used more effectively.

Catch rainwater. Catching rainwater cuts back on the amount of tap water used. This system will save time and energy by providing a natural way to collect water. (Just be sure to sanitize the water before drinking it.)

Talk about it. Spreading awareness about the lack of water is crucial to spark change. If you see your friend running the faucet while they’re brushing their teeth, kindly remind them to turn it off.

Global Citizen impact

Before Global Citizen Festival 2015, global citizens took 100,000 actions to secure a commitment from Sweden to improve access to sanitation for 60 million people by 2030.

Ahead of Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, global citizens took 70,000 actions, signing our petitions, and sending e-mails to the Dutch government seeking a commitment from the Netherlands to improve sanitation and access to clean water for the world’s poorest people.  

As a result, the Dutch Government committed at Global Citizen 2015 to provide 50 million people with clean toilets and 30 million people with clean drinking water.

Working with partners, Global Citizen also secured passage of the Water for the World Act in late 2014, improving how the United States uses its foreign aid to provide clean water and sanitation, affecting the lives of 100,000 people.

Read More: Here's How 25 Commitments to Water & Sanitation Have Played Out