In the poorest communities around the world, women and girls walk to collect water, firewood or other basic necessities of life. They walk on average 6 kilometres a day – 8,000 steps while carrying the equivalent of a suitcase. This leaves little time to attend school, access health services or earn money to support their family.
Women are largely responsible for collecting and managing water resources in developing countries, especially in rural areas, reports from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) show. Without a ready source of freshwater they may have to walk for several hours every day to find it. The U.N. estimates that 1.2 billion people lack access to safe water and about 2.5 billion are without access to proper sanitation.It is common for girls in rural areas of the world to drop out of school, so as to help carry out the burden of moving water. Girls as young as ten contribute to household tasks. Eventually, they miss classes and lag behind enough in school to abandon their education.
Collecting wood from forests for fuel is a difficult task that falls largely on the shoulders of the world’s women. A survey found that collecting firewood was one of the greatest burdens for many women and that it had a significant impact on their quality of life (Green & Erskine, 1998; 1999). .Pic credits: Basankusu collecting firewood by Francis Hannaway
Collecting firewood is extremely tiring as the women often have to walk long distances in search of wood which then has to be carried back to the homestead. Rural Tanzanian women, for example, walk 5-10 km a day collecting firewood, carrying loads between 20kg – 38kg. In rural India, the average is over three hours each day. The time-consuming nature of this task often causes young girls to be kept out of school. Girls going for firewood collection have been known to be subjected to sexual abuse too (UNDP).
Would their life be the same if they had the opportunity to be educated like YOU and me?
Educated girls grow into women who tend to have healthier and better nourished babies, who most likely will do everything to have their own children attending school as well, thus breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. Educated girls can better protect themselves against HIV, trafficking and abuse.
Educating a girl also means that as a woman, she is empowered and more likely to participate in development efforts and in political and economic decision-making. Women who went to school usually manage to increase the household income. The advantages of girls’ education thus do not stop at the boundaries of a single child, but ripple through families, communities, and nations.