Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Aisha Alhassan, has decried the long hours which women and girls across the country spend to get water for domestic and other uses.
Alhassan raised the concern in Abuja at an inter-ministerial dialogue on how to scale up access to water and sanitation, which was organised by the Ministry of Water Resources.
According to her, “70 per cent of rural women spend not less than three hours trekking long distances every day in search of potable water for the family.”
She said that the country needed to reverse the trend by initiating policies and programmes that would improve the lives of women and children.
Alhassan said that women were the highest users of water, adding that they, therefore, needed to be included in the design and implementation of water projects that would suit them.
She said that the ministry was working with other stakeholders to reduce women’s vulnerability to early or forced marriage, diseases and deaths, particularly those caused by the lack of water and sanitation.
“What we have found out in the ministry is that available water facilities are located in the houses of chiefs and village heads. So any girl that goes there to fetch water ends up getting married to the chief or village head. This affects the education of the girl-child because once she is married to the chief, she no longer goes out. Such people have limited opportunities and have no empowerment whatsoever,’’ she said.
The minister, however, called for the installation of sanitation and hygiene facilities in all schools, adding that girls’ menstrual hygiene management could only be achieved with access to water in schools.
Also speaking, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, reiterated the ministry’s commitment to implementing the Growing Women and Girls in Nigeria (GWIN) programme, which was aimed at improving the lives of women and girls.
She pledged the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to revive the nation’s economy, adding that the budgetary provision for water infrastructure had been increased so as to ensure improved water supply.
Adeosun stressed that the citizens’ living standards would improve with sustained commitment to increasing their access to water and sanitation.
The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, said that the meeting was a way of creating awareness on the need to increase the funding of water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in the country.
Adamu noted that Nigeria was a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding that Goal Six particularly aimed at improving access to water and sanitation.
He said that Nigeria must deliberately provide funds for water and sanitation projects, while increasing advocacy to meet the targets.
Mr Chris Williams, Executive Director, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), said that no nation could quantify the benefits of investing in water and sanitation.
He conceded that Nigeria had made progress in the sector, adding, however, that with strengthened collaboration, payment of counterpart funds, the nation would be able to end open defecation and increase access to water and sanitation.
Williams said that massive investment in water and sanitation would reduce health costs, increase girls’ school enrolment and women empowerment.
The dialogue is part of the agenda of the WSSCC team which is currently visiting Nigeria.