Facts and figures about water and women

Women and girls use more than 8 hours a day travelling from 10 to 15 km to collect water. They transport between 20 and 15 litres of water in each trip.

In most developing countries, women are responsible for water management at the domestic and community level.

Women have often played a leadership role in promoting environmental ethics, reducing resource use and recycling resources, to minimize waste and excessive consumption. Women, especially indigenous women, have particular knowledge of ecological linkage and fragile ecosystem management. Sustainable development practices that do not involve women will not succeed in the long run.

Some 30% of women in Egypt walk over an hour a day to meet water needs.

At least 50% of the world’s food is grown by women farmers and it amounts to 80% in some African countries.
70% of the world’s blind are women who have been infected, directly or through their children, with trachoma, a blinding bacterial eye infection occurring in communities with limited access to water.

Because of the absence of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools, 10% of school-age girls in Africa do not attend school during menstruation or drop out at puberty.

The term Niddah means separation. During her menstrual flow and for several days thereafter, a Jewish woman is considered Niddah – separate from her husband and unable to practice the sacred rituals of Judaism. Purification in a miqveh (a ritual bath) following her period restores full status as a wife and member of the Jewish community.

As early as in the 1970s, African women became engaged in projects related to water supply and sanitation. In Ghana and Burkina Faso, women have increasingly influenced communal decision making: they are those who decide when to drill new wells.

In Ecuador, women lead the Indian community efforts to strengthen canals and water rights in the Andean region.

Information from:
‘Water priorities of women and men often differ’ of the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) website
the publication ‘Women and Water. Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law’
from chapter V ‘Women and water management: an integrated approach’ of the UNEP’s ‘Women and the Environment’ publication [PDF format – 1.17 MB]
the publication ‘Women2000 and Beyond: Women and Water’ [PDF format – 264 KB]

Source: UNESCO Water Portal, March 2006

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