While A Spring of Hope’s mission is to bring water to impoverished rural South African schools in order to provide sustainable economic development to all in the community, our work has a significant and unique impact for girls and women.
One very critical area that is affected by lack of water is school attendance. Girls’ absentee rates are significantly higher than boys due to their role as water collectors. They often have to trudge several kilometers with jerry cans to unreliable government pumps or unsafe, polluted sources in order to acquire water for cooking and washing, losing days of school and work. If the water is of questionable quality and makes them ill, more work or school time is lost, with medical costs adding economic burdens they can ill-afford.
According to the UN Women Commission, women and girls represent 75 percent of household water collectors. In some countries, the proportion is as high as 90 percent.
A fresh, clean water source at schools can be used for food preparation, sanitation and growing prolific gardens that provide healthy and nutritious meals for the students. Additionally, the burden of collecting water is lessened and girls are more likely to maintain their studies.
Another area which A Spring of Hope is striving to improve, which also adversely affects girls, is sanitation. In South Africa, 913 schools have no sanitation facilities and 11,450 are still using pit latrine toilets (www.equaleducation.org.za). While poor sanitation and pit latrines spread disease and are unhealthy for all, menstruation offers additional challenges to girls.
Globally, about one in ten female students do not attend school during menstruation or drop out because they do not have access to sanitation facilities they feel are private, clean, and safe.
In addition, inadequate sanitation facilities pose a safety risk for women and girls, who often suffer harassment or sexual assault when toilets have no locks or doors.
A Spring of Hope is attempting to provide solutions for these sanitation issues by providing waterless toilets to our partner schools. Waterless toilets are a revolutionary waste containment system which is environmentally friendly, requires no water, and helps eradicate the spread of disease.
Universal access to water and sanitation is imperative to achieving gender equality and promoting women’s empowerment. It is also about the increased access to rights–the right to own property, own land, education, and free choices. A Spring of Hope is contributing to this ongoing struggle for rights by helping schools become self-sufficient, strong community centers. It’s not “aid” or giving material goods away, it is partnerships that are behind rights-based development.