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Vulnerable to Attack

Dr. Glenn Patterson and Dr. Melinda Laituri discuss the risk of vulnerable attacks women and girls face on their long walks to collect water.

While women and girls are on their long walks away from homes and villages, they may be vulnerable to violent attacks. They may also be vulnerable to such attacks if they have no private sanitation facilities. For example, according to Amnesty International, in their report, “Where is the dignity in that?’ Women in Solomon Islands denied sanitation and safety”, two out of three Pacific island females are affected by violence against women. The report states,

“Women and girls in the Solomon Islands are forced to risk their personal safety for something most of us take for granted – clean water and basic sanitation. Women and girls are often attacked while walking long distances from “slums” or informal settlements in the Islands’ capital, Honiara, to collect clean water for cooking and cleaning, or to visit toilets. Their journeys often take them through remote and poorly lit areas. They are particularly vulnerable on the return journey when they are carrying heavy loads of water.”
In a 2011 article in the Huffington Post entitled “Sexual violence on the way to water”, Jan Eliasson describes threats and attacks faced by girls who walk long distances to fetch water in Uganda,
“(Sixteen-year-old) Scovia told WaterAid that when she walks to get water, she is routinely harassed by boys and men along the way, who threaten her with extreme forms of sexual violence and even death. Scovia’s friends face the same threats, and she tells of one who is now pregnant after an attack.”

Unfortunately these stories exemplify situations that are all too common in many places in the world where women and girls must walk long distances to collect water. In 2016 the organization, Human Rights Watch, wrote a letter to UN Special Rapporteur (an independent expert working on behalf of the United Nations) Léo Heller documenting numerous locations and instances in which women and girls faced similar risks and threats.

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Water for the People: Gender, Human Rights, and Diplomacy

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