by Kristopher Coulston

Illness and family emergencies are typically the cause for school absence in developed countries. Unfortunately, this is not the situation in drought-stricken countries, such as Niger. Water is scarce and girls spend hours walking miles just to satisfy their desperate need for it, even if the water sources they are gathering from are unsafe. The task of collecting water is most often delegated to women and young girls, forcing the women to forgo income-generating work and the girls to abandon their educational pursuits. Ready access to clean water can help girls achieve their educational aspirations, giving them the opportunity to create a bright future for themselves.

The idea of walking miles to gather water is unfathomable to most who live in a developed country, but for girls in Niger, survival is dependent on just that. The women and girls of Niger lose hours every day to the obligatory task of searching for and collecting safe water. The privilege of a daily routine that consists of waking up from a comfortable night’s sleep to eat breakfast and prepare for the school day ahead is nonexistent for girls in rural Niger thanks to a lack of ready access to clean water.

Young girls waiting for water

While many young Nigerien girls take on the incredible feat of making the long trek to gather water, the sources they gather their water from are often unsafe. Access to clean water plays a vital role in the health and development of children. Drinking from unsafe water sources comes with a multitude of risks including life-threatening disease and stunted growth. Even if families were located near a water source and girls did not have to spend hours collecting water, the deleterious consequences of drinking from unsanitary water sources would continue to impede successful educational outcomes for young girls in Niger.

Ready access to clean water makes a world of difference for those who live in drought-stricken countries like Niger. It means that men and women can provide for their families. It means that their daughters can pursue an education. A successful future awaits those girls who are given the opportunity to attend school. Women who complete their education see higher earnings, are more productive, and are enthusiastic about being involved in the political and economic discourse, creating the potential for progress in their communities. Ready access to clean water is key to Nigerien girls having the opportunity to pave the way to a bright and successful future for themselves, their families and communities.