To honour International Women’s Day today (8th March) this blog is all about the role of women in the areas in which we work in Malawi. Lots of research has shown that women suffer more than men in three main areas as a direct consequence of having no access to clean water. But don’t worry – Pump Aid are working hard to challenge the issues to allow women more equality and freedom.
As a consequence of spending hours every day collecting water from far away sources, women and girls miss out on valuable time at school which means that they have less access to career opportunities in the future, so less chance to be able to break the poverty cycle. After all, women make up 50% of the population, so imagine how the economy could change if they reached their full potential. Teenage girls face more problems when they reach puberty as schools don’t have separate facilities, so girls miss 3-5 days of school every month during this period.
Even though diseases that are found in unclean water don’t discriminate between men and women, there is still a bias found, as women are more at risk from health problems that come as a result of using unclean water. In Malawi, 12 children under the age of 5 die every day from diarrhoea diseases – this is shocking when there is a very simple cure: Clean water.
Women are more at risk because of childbirth. The World Health Organisation claim that 99% of maternal deaths happen in developing countries, as simple cures and preventative methods aren’t used. For example, equipment isn’t always sterilised, and the quality of water used for cleaning means that infections can easily spread.
As it is traditionally the role of a woman to collect water, many find themselves exceptionally vulnerable when walking remote and dangerous paths with their heavy load. As they often walk the same route at the same time of day, they are easy targets to men who can hide at the side of the path.
Another difficulty for women is how cultural traditions shun them. By being forced to protect their modesty, but not having appropriate facilities to do so, many women resort to open-defecation under the cover of darkness. Not only is this dangerous, but open defecation can contaminate water supplies, exacerbating the whole situation.
How is Pump Aid helping?
Official statistics in Malawi claim that 90% of people have access to an improved water source – however, their definition of ‘improved’ is that the source is 500 metres away or less. Pump Aid aren’t convinced that a 1,000 metre round trip for water is convenient, nor does it protect women on that walk. In our latest project, the average distance to a household water source is now just 11m.
The women in these villages have had a new lease of life! They have much more time in their day as the water source is so much more convenient. Not only that, but the water that they draw from the well is clean! Entire villages are much healthier, children are going to school which is improving their futures, and allowing parents more time to work on their small farms or other businesses.
If you’ve been inspired by our work, then please, give anything you can to help us carry on empowering these women.