Can better access to water aid women’s rights in Africa?

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Improving water accessibility – and fixing the gender imbalance connected with water collection – could improve the education and productivity of women and girls in 24 sub-Saharan African countries.

Here a woman near Luphisi, South Africa, uses a Hippo Roller to collect water. She used to carry water on her head for more than a mile to the river and back home. The Hippo carries five times as much water as a bucket.

A new joint study published Wednesday from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and Korea University in Seoul reveals that of the millions of people charged with this task, adult women and girls constitute a majority in every country surveyed.

  • More than  75 percent of the sub-Saharan African population travels long distances to collect water for daily use and consumption. And the burden of this work is disproportionately borne by women.
  • Traveling long distances away from home to collect water exposes women and girls to dangerous risks such as physical stress, disease, and sexual assault.
  • A container of water typically weighs between 40 and 55 pounds, and most women and children have “less physical capacity to carry heave loads in contrast to adult men,” leading to pain and fatigue, the study states.

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