Hesperian Health Guides
Work with Water
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Women must often find and carry all the water for their families. Women also do most of the washing and cleaning, and are usually the ones who bathe children. All of these tasks are important for a woman’s health and the health of her family. However, these same tasks can cause health problems.
Health problems from work with water:
- Women who spend long hours in contact with contaminated water are exposed to parasites and germs that live in and near water. These women are more likely to get infected with bilharzia, guinea worm, the germs that cause river blindness and cholera, and other parasitic diseases. For information about how to treat these infections, see Where There Is No Doctor.
- Women who live downstream from a factory or large farms may be exposed to chemicals in the water. Chemicals can cause many health problems. For more information, see the next page.
- Water is one of the heaviest things women must carry, so collecting and carrying it can cause back and neck problems, as well as other health problems.
If you live downstream from a factory that dumps chemicals into the water, try to organize your community to work for better conditions. For an example of one community’s experience, see Louise Waithira Nganga's story.
Clean water helps keep everyone healthy. All over the world, people are working together to improve health by organizing community water projects. But women are often left out of the meetings and decisions about these projects, such as where to put community taps, where to dig wells, and what kind of system to use.