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Global Public Health
Balancing Act: Women Lose Without Safe Water
Balancing Act: Women Lose Without Safe Water
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As I approached the hanging latrine in Dhaka, Bangladesh, my first thoughts were “how am I going to get up there?” and then “where is the door?” I was in Dhaka to see the progress of a partnership begun in 2009 with Water.org andDSK, a Bangladesh-based water organization, and it was time for me to understand the impetus behind this project.

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Hanging latrine in Karmrangir Char, Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Gary White/Water.org)

In Dhaka, and in many other parts of the world without toilets or clean water, people must navigate a precarious ramp, sometimes a single plank, to a raised outdoor toilet. Aside from the unsanitary conditions, lack of privacy and spread of disease, navigating a wobbly ramp is a balancing act that is often beyond the abilities of the very young and very old.

Wobbly ramps aren’t the only balancing acts people encounter when their communities lack clean water and sanitation – for women and girls, the biggest balancing act is time. Women and children, usually girls, spend 140 million hours a day collecting water. In the Dhaka community that I was visiting, a girl might spend 2-3 hours a day gathering clean water.

The time spent gathering and transporting water prevents girls from attending school and steals precious productive hours from women who could provide income or do other activities to care for their families. This time crunch traps girls and women without education or income in a cycle of poverty. From the use of an unsafe and unsanitary hanging latrine, to the wasted hours of an unproductive day, women are the biggest losers in the water-crisis balancing act.

Water.org and DSK are working to level that balancing act by engaging the community in a “Water Credit” program that involves planning and saving the community members’ own money to build systems for safe water. Johnson & Johnson supports community education on the use of safe water to prevent disease, care for their reproductive health and empower women. The collaboration has provided almost 25,000 people with safe water, sanitation and reproductive health information.

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Sanitation is horrendous throughout the community with use of "hanging latrines." The human waste simply drops on the ground below the latrine and accumulated until it is washed away. Kazituri, Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Gary White/Water.org)

But there are many more women and families to reach with safe water, sanitation, and information on how both can improve health. More than one billion people lack access to a steady supply of clean water and 2.4 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation.

This World Water Day, you can help Water.org and DSK bring clean water to 2,000 more families through Johnson & Johnson’s Donate a Photo. Each photo you donate makes that balancing act just a little easier for women and their families in Dhaka.

Download the Donate a Photo app for iOS and Android to make a difference this Water Day. When you share a photo to Water.org through the app, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1* for every photo to help bring clean, safe water to those who need it most.

*Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn’t reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.

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