Imagine walking three miles each day to collect water and the only water available is in filthy ponds or lakes. This water is contaminated with waterborne illnesses but these women have no choice. They don’t have indoor plumbing. They don’t have the privilege of filling pots with water from the kitchen sink and using that water to cook. They don’t have a washer and a dryer to do their laundry. They don’t have bottled or filtered water for drinking. They have dirty water at their disposal. They need this water to cook, wash clothes and drink. This water which is a necessity for them can bring death and sickness to their families.
Look at the ground they have to travel over in order to get this water that is not fit for anything. It looks dry because of the scorching heat. Imagine walking in that heat for three miles and then retracing your steps, carrying heavy buckets and jugs of water seven days a week.
Look at this water. It’s brown. This woman would gladly draw clean water from a well if there was one but she has to settle for this muddy water.
Fetching water is not only exhausting for women and girls but it takes a toll in other areas. Water for the Ages gave these 10 facts on women and water:
- Women and children fetch the majority of water for household uses in rural areas. Often this keeps them from attending school or working at a job.
- The average distance that women and children walk for water in Africa and Asia is six kilometers (3.7 miles).
- Women carry heavy loads of water (about 20 liters) on their heads in some locations in the world. This causes severe damage to the neck and spine over time.
- Women make most household water and sanitation decisions, but they are rarely invited to be involved in planning or management of water and sanitation systems.
- Water projects that involve women in planning and management are proven more likely to succeed.
- In many places in the world, women’s land rights are not recognized, and they are unable to access water for agricultural uses.
- On average, women work twice as long as men for unpaid work (housework, cleaning, cooking, washing, etc.) than men.
- Women are primary caretakers of the millions of children that fall ill each year from water-related illnesses. This reduces time spent working or on education.
- For mothers and pregnant women, an improved water supply and proper water storage is essential to protect lives and ensure good health.
- Women are under-represented in water and sanitation sector jobs with men having most jobs in this field.
Imagine being pregnant and having to travel a long distance to fetch water. Here’s a video of a woman who suffered miscarriages as a result of fetching drinking water for her family.
This seems so wrong. When I was a child and we had a water shortage, we had to draw water from the pipe in the yard. It was heavy carrying this bucket up the stairs and to the bathroom. I can’t imagine walking for miles with a heavy bucket of water. This is not something that women or girls should be doing. Yet the men are not doing it and some of them are marrying extra women to fetch them water. These women are called, “water wives”.
Reuter’s reporter Danish Siddiqui reports that these “water wives” are often widows or single mothers wishing to “regain respect” in their communities. He notes that they usually do not share the marital bed and often live in separate apartments. But even though many are wives in name only, their labor is essential to their husbands: they must walk through hot temperatures and sticky humidity to communal wells, where they then wait hours for their turn before loading up metal containers and makeshift pitchers with water and lugging them back. Their husband and the village depend on them to take on this time consuming and inconvenient task. However, these women are happy with the arrangement. It’s better than being a widow or abandoned.
Unlike the “water wives” many women in South Asia don’t have access to communal wells. They have to travel far to fetch unclean water. Thankfully, their situation is not hopeless. Through Gospel for Asia, women can get clean water for their families from Jesus’ Wells.
Find out more about how the Lord is using clean water to demonstrate His love for these thirsty people by checking out this link. You can help to improve the health of families by helping Gospel for Asia to provide clean, pure water from a Jesus’ Well.