Water is the elixir of life. However, many rural areas in India do not have easy access to clean water. Despite water sources being few and far between, a majority of them are already contaminated with pollutants, making over 21% of India’s diseases water-related.
According to the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report released by the Niti Aayog in 2018, 21 major cities, including Delhi, and Hyderabad, amongst others, will likely reach zero groundwater levels by 2020. It is estimated that this will affect around 100 million people having access to clean water. Although water is comparatively easily available in urban areas, it is a very scarce but necessary resource for people living in rural areas, especially women. Water enables women to maintain proper menstrual hygiene and sanitation, and without it, they are prone to many life-threatening diseases.
In Indian villages, water collection is usually a woman’s job. Due to a lack of easy access to clean drinking water, women are subjected to walking more than five kilometres each day to collect water – a detrimental task for women to carry out, especially if they are menstruating. While menstruating, women should take care of themselves, maintain proper hygiene and rest to compensate for the blood lost from their bodies. Instead, they are carrying heavy loads across long distances, coupled with limited or no access to adequate sanitation facilities.
In rural areas, many women use reusable cloth pads. Without access to clean water, they end up washing this cloth with contaminated water, leading to a higher risk of infections such as urinary tract infections.
During their menstrual cycle, women need water not only externally for hygiene purposes, but also to stay hydrated. Without adequate water intake, women could experience amplified menstrual cramps and discomfort.
Once a girl starts menstruating, lack of adequate water supply can even affect her schooling. More often than not, many girls stop going to school during their cycle, as lack of access to water and sanitary resources at school makes it challenging to get through an entire day of classes. Missing classes often eventually leads to many girls dropping out of school entirely, furthering the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
The perceived taboo around menstruation makes it difficult for women in rural areas, in any case, to go through ‘those 5 days’ every month. It is unfair that they have to suffer further due to something as basic as access to clean water. Join us in helping provide access to safe, reusable sanitary solutions to women in need across rural India. Visit www.giveher5.org to get involved.