Women are the primary caretakers in normal households. They are also the primary users of domestic water as part of their key role in sanitation, preparing food, washing dishes, doing laundry and caring for vegetable gardens.
In rural communities where fresh water is not readily available, the burden usually falls on the women to fetch water from available sources.
This means they have to walk long distances, carry heavy loads of water and risk the dangers of walking alone at night. They also carry the responsibility to preserve, store and manage their water supply.
In some parts of Africa women spend up to eight hours per day collecting water. They suffer from back ailments due to carrying heavy water containers and are left with no time to perform household duties, relax or to engage in community activities.
There is a growing need for women, especially those in rural areas, to become involved in water management initiatives and programmes. If women are empowered through participation in water initiatives, they could contribute to alleviate the burden of mismanagement and misuse of water resources. Women should also be invited to take on leadership roles in matters relating to water.
Women are excellent stewards of water as they know exactly how much water a basic household needs, where to find water and how to ensure that domestic water is safe and clean. If they are engaged in decision making and implementation of water management programmes they will be able to campaign for more and better located water collection points and practical and attainable technology, such as pumps and containers to ease the collection of water.
After years of denying the need for women to become involved in sustainable water resource management, it is now recognised globally that the exclusion of women from the administration and management of water supply and sanitation programmes contributes largely to the failure of many water management initiatives and programmes.