The “Dirty” Situation of Women and Girls: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the Post 2015 Development Framework




“The place where we went before is about 6km from here. It was threatening and dirty. It was frightening too so most of the time we went with friends. There are men who are not really nice. When they see lonely women there they rape them or something like that. I know that something like that already happened. I don’t want my daughter to go to that place because I’m afraid of her being raped. I’m teaching her to always use the toilet instead.” -Madeleine is a young mother. Her family recently had a toilet built next to their house[1]

In the developing world, the burden of collecting water, falls disproportionately on women and girls particularly for families without a drinking-water source at home. According to WHO/UNICEF 2012, Sub-Saharan African countries indicated that around 71% of the water collected is done so by women and girls. In these countries alone, it is estimated that women spend a combined total of at least 16 million hours every day collecting water. Only 25% of people in these countries had access to water at or near their home in 2010. This presents challenges to their health and well-being and also prevents them having time to focus on their education or engage in an economic activity.

The lack of clean drinking water and access to safe and private sanitation facilities presents additional challenges and has particular impact for both girls and women. Considerable time and energy are being spent daily on collecting water and caring for family members suffering from water-related illnesses. Specifically, it can contribute to Violence Against Women/Girls where there can be an increase the risk of violence especially where girls and women have to go to remote areas to collect water or compete for shared and limited resources. Menstrual hygiene management has been widely neglected in WASH provision in homes, schools and public toilets, affecting girls and women’s education, health, self-esteem and dignity, as well as their safety.

Way forward

Improving water supply and sanitation impacts positively on women’s living conditions by giving them more time for productive endeavours, adult education, empowerment activities and leisure Women’s vulnerability can be reduced by bringing improved clean water sources and sanitation facilities closer to communities, and ensuring their sustainability and reliability. WASH in schools improves the lives of girls by significantly reducing disease and increasing school attendance. Empowering women and girls to ensure safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is a key driver in the eradication of poverty and provides an opportunity for communities to reap health, economic, and educational benefits.  It is essential that the post 2015 development framework integrates the issues of women and girls in achieving universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene.


African women’s rights organisations therefore propose the following indicators for consideration in the post 2015 development framework under the target “Universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030”:

  • No. of households with access to safe, drinking water
  • Rates of communicable and non-communicable disease
  • No. of girls dropping out of school due to the burden of water collecting chores
  • Average weekly time spent in water collection disaggregated by sex


 By: Felogene Anumo, Advocacy Programme Associate at FEMNET. Email:


Related Posts

Join the Conversation