When women bear the burden

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is a global initiative that focuses on improving people’s access to clean water and sanitation, particularly for the millions of the people in the developing world who lack it. There are strong linkages between access to WASH and gender equality.

West Bengal, India, January 2017 (Akudo Ejelonu)

West Bengal, India, January 2017 (Akudo Ejelonu)

In India, women and children are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to WASH and shoulder the largest burden in water collection. Having access to safe clean water is an imprint on household demands and public spaces. Compared to collecting water from the lake, underground water pump stations provide reliable access to water. But sometimes even this water isn’t safe and can be filled with heavy metals and bacteria.

Even though technology such as the water pumping station and household latrines can help address public health problems, we must not forget that women still bear the burden of daily water collection and transportation. The full participation of women in the decision and implementation of WASH is strongly correlated with project success and sustainability. In many cases, women are the end users but aren’t asked about their perspective in the design thinking, implementation and policy recommendations of projects that affect their lives, families and communities. Empowering women helps communities reach their full educational, health, and financial potential.

Affirmation: For the individuals pictured in this photo, I asked for and received their consent to be photographed.

Akudo Ejelonu is a dual degree graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania (Masters of Environmental Science and Masters of Public Health Candidate) with an interest in water, sanitation, hygiene and global health.