For girls, you either attend school or 'train to become good wives'

KDHS 2022 reveals an endless to-do list for Kenyan women, pushing thousands of girls out of school

In Summary

•Young girls are tagged along to gain all these skills because parents think they will need them in future when they are married.

•In most cases, women and girls make longer journeys to collect forewood, losing time in education, work, and leisure.

Girls fetching water from River Yala on Sunday, March 27, 2022.
Girls fetching water from River Yala on Sunday, March 27, 2022.

In some of the counties they visited, data collectors for the 2022 demographic survey found that women would rise at dawn to prepare breakfast for their families.

After feeding the children, they would walk more than 30 minutes to fetch water, often with an infant on their back.

Back home, they would wash clothes, go to the farms to plant, weed, or harvest the crops, and then look for firewood.

Young girls are tagged along to gain all these skills because parents think they will need them in future when they are married.

“In households without drinking water on premises, the person who most commonly collects water is an adult female age 15 or older,” the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey reported.

The results show the feminisation of household chores is rampant in the majority of counties, and this denies girls time to study and enjoy their childhood.

It shows 65 per cent of the population in rural areas have to look for water daily, while in towns in it 30 per cent.

“Counties with the highest percentage of population without drinking water on the premises are Kisii (88 per cent) and Marsabit (88 per cent),” the report says.

Among those who take more than 30 minutes to obtain drinking water, only half (51 per cent) have drinking water available in sufficient quantities. This means they have to travel longer distances more frequently to find water.

The report also notes people in most counties use firewood, largely collected by women, for cooking.

Most of these are arid counties such as Mandera, Wajir, Tana River, Marsabit, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu, and Elgeyo/Marakwet.

“More than half (53 per cent) of the urban population relies on clean fuels and technologies for cooking, space heating, and lighting compared to five per cent in rural areas,” the report shows.

In 2016, Unicef released a report showing girls spend 40 per cent more time performing unpaid household chores than boys.

Two out of three girls cook and clean in the home, and almost half collect water or firewood, the report, titled, Harnessing the Power of Data for Girls: Taking Stock and looking ahead to 2030, noted.

On Thursday this week, the World Health Organization and Unicef released another report showing, globally, women and girls are responsible for fetching water in seven out of 10 households without supplies on-premises.

This was the first in-depth analysis of gender inequalities in drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in households.

 “Every step a girl takes to collect water is a step away from learning, play, and safety,” Cecilia Sharp, Unicef director of WASH and CEED said.

“Unsafe water, toilets, and handwashing at home robs girls of their potential, compromises their well-being, and perpetuates cycles of poverty. Responding to girls’ needs in the design and implementation of Wash programmes is critical to reaching universal access to water and sanitation and achieving gender equality and empowerment.”

According to the report, globally, 1.8 billion people live in households without water supplies on the premises. Women and girls aged 15 and older are primarily responsible for water collection in seven out of 10 such households, compared with three in 10 households for their male peers.

Girls under 15 (7  per cent) are also more likely than boys under 15 (four per cent) to fetch water.

In most cases, women and girls make longer journeys to collect it, losing time in education, work, and leisure, and putting themselves at risk of physical injury and dangers on the way.

The report also shows that more than half a billion people still share sanitation facilities with other households, compromising women’s and girls’ privacy, dignity, and safety.

For example, recent surveys from 22 countries show that among households with shared toilets, women and girls are more likely than men and boys to feel unsafe walking alone at night and face sexual harassment and other safety risks.

Furthermore, inadequate Wash services increase health risks for women and girls and limit their ability to safely and privately manage their periods.

Among 51 countries with available data, women and adolescent girls in the poorest households and those with disabilities are the most likely to lack a private place to wash and change.

The WHO/Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report – Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2022: Special focus on gender – compiles data on global progress towards achieving universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, including emerging data on menstrual health and hygiene.

For the first time, the report provides an in-depth analysis of gender inequalities, highlighting the risks women and girls face from inadequate access to safe Wash in those countries for which national statistics are available.

“The latest data from WHO shows a stark reality: 1.4 million lives are lost each year due to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene,” Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Environment, Climate Change and Health Departments said.

“Women and girls not only face WASH-related infectious diseases, like diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, but they also face additional health risks because they are vulnerable to harassment, violence, and injury when they have to go outside the home to haul water or just to use the toilet."

The report notes some progress towards achieving universal access to WASH.

Between 2015 and 2022, household access to safely managed drinking water increased from 69 to 73 per cent; safely managed sanitation increased from 49 to 57 per cent; and basic hygiene services increased from 67 to 75 per cent.


(Edited by Tabnacha O)

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