This article was written by Morée Scofield of Water.org and originally posted on Global Citizen on March 2; photos contributed by Benjamin Heath and under copyright in support of Water.org.
A lack of access to safe water and sanitation locks women in a cycle of poverty.
Each day women who lack access to these resources spend 125 million hours collecting water for their families, and 266 million hours finding a place to relieve themselves.
For all the water they need for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning – women walk miles, carry heavy vessels, wait for hours and often pay exorbitant prices. The work is all-consuming. Once they are old enough, girls join this effort.
Globally, 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. In many countries it is not acceptable for women to relieve themselves in the open during the day, so they wait for nightfall, just to have privacy. This impacts health and puts their safety at risk.
For decades, the water and sanitation sector has approached water and sanitation access for the poor through raising money and disbursing it in the form of subsidies to cover the cost of wells and toilets. This charity-led approach is not sustainable or scalable at a level needed to confront the global water crisis.
For a large segment of the poor, charity dollars are not necessarily needed as much as access to finance. Water.org has found that women around the world have great potential to take hold of their family’s water and sanitation needs; when they get back the time once spent collecting water or looking for a safe place to go, they can attend school, work to earn incomes and ultimately fund their own solutions.
We believe that hundreds of millions of those lacking critical water and sanitation services can be reached by continuing to remove financial and other roadblocks, allowing them to move from unserved potential beneficiaries to empowered customers.
Water.org is seeing great success in challenging the traditional charity model by empowering the poor to define their own futures. Through WaterCredit, the poor can finance the construction of their own solutions like a water tap or toilet. To date Water.org has served more than 3.3 million people through this approach. And of those served, more than 90% of the loans were borrowed by women who repaid them at a repayment rate of 99%.
To learn more about how Water.org is unlocking the potential of women around the world through lasting safe water and sanitation solutions, visit Water.org.
This story was contributed by Morée Scofield, Water.org, and Benjamin Heath, professional photographer. All photos are credited to Water.org. This piece was originally posted on Global Citizen and can be found here.