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Bēhance

Case Study: Water Collection

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  • Purpose of the Study:
    Although the impact of water collection on the lives of women in sub-Saharan Africa is well documented, the academic community lacks studies that examine how proximate access to water affects girls’ academic enrollment and retention. Specifically, there have been only limited studies done on the correlation between water collection and female attrition rates at the secondary school level – the apex of fallout for female students in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, the purpose of this study was two-fold: (1) to evaluate the extent to which the formal education of girls is affected by the availability of potable water (2) to assess how water collection impacts girls’ educational progression.

    Given the lack of research linking access to water and the realization of gender equality in education, this study acts as a baseline for future investigation. 

    Significance to the field:
    This study argues that reliable access to a safe water source will increase girls' school enrollment and completion rates. Given that women and girls are commonly the primary (non-economic) resource collectors of a family, the underlying logic of this study is that an improvement in the delivery of basic services, such as the installment of indoor plumbing or community wells in arid regions, will mitigate the high drop out rates of school-aged females.

    While scores of studies have identified economic constraints and gender biases as determinants of families' schooling decisions, a very limited amount of research has linked access to water and gender disparity in education. Addressing this gap in academic literature is crucial to breaking existing cycles of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality. 

    The results of this study reveal the way in which a lack of adequate water infrastructure in Kenya’s rural areas hinders women and girls’ daily lives and opportunities for economic and social mobility. Thus, this research serves as a baseline for iteration and expansion, with the long-term goal of developing a greater understanding of the ways in which water development projects and the smarter provision of basic resources may be used as strategies for achieving gender equality in education and advancing human rights.


    Findings:
    The findings of this study have a number of important implications for future policies and investment decisions related to gender equality and educational development in Kenya. One implication of the research is that children with proximate access to water will spend less time on water collection. The results of the current study confirm that water collection has a negative impact on girls’ education.Therefore, the provisioning of water should be used to increase female enrollment and retention in Kenyan secondary schools.

    Moreover, the local provisioning of water should become a priority of the Kenyan government, particularly in the country’s arid and semi-arid areas. Drought-stricken regions and major agricultural zones should be prioritized, as the provisioning of water would help make farms more productive and, subsequently, yield greater economic benefits for families reliant on seasonal incomes. In this way, providing access to a reliable and safe water source would facilitate the development of human capital, at the same time that it would increase the economic productivity of a community.

    Another important implication is the enhancement of Kenya’s day schools. Given that boarding school fees are cost prohibitive for a significant proportion of the population, the Kenyan government should allocate funds for the improvement of its existing day schools. Through infrastructure development projects, the government should provide public secondary schools with proximate access to reliable and safe water, increased water storage areas and gender-segregated sanitation facilities. Other small-scale development projects include the provisioning of sanitation supplies and enhanced safety measures for students that walk long distances to and from school in high-risk areas.

    Because the Kenyan government has its own priorities for the allocation of public funds, some of the larger development projects should introduce grant-in-aid[1] or be outsourced to non-governmental groups in order to accelerate project completion. For smaller projects, community driven development (CDD[2]) programs would allow members of a community to address their own prioritized issues in the way they best see fit. One such example of this is the provisioning of bicycles for students that walk over a certain distance to and from school. School bicycles would minimize the amount of time spent walking and therefore reduce students’ exposure to risk.

    A final implication of this research is increasing access to Kenya’s boarding schools through the wider disbursement of financial assistance in the form of grants and scholarships to academically gifted but economically challenged students. The Kenyan government should facilitate greater access to boarding schools by targeting marginalized areas for academic training workshops and scholarship programs. Expanding educational opportunities to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds would not only empower more individual students, but would also develop the capacity of entire communities through the implementation and administration of academic workshops and scholar programs.

    This study suggests a multifaceted approach to bridging the gender gap in Kenya’s public secondary schools. In addition to the recommendations discussed above, this research offered an analysis of water-related policies and interventions that have been employed in Kenya to improve educational development and gender equality in water management. The impact of these reviewed policies and interventions support the current study’s objective of making investment in the provisioning of water a core strategy for lowering the attrition rate of young girls in Kenya’s educational system.

    Moreover, this research emphasized the need to position women not only as targeted beneficiaries of development assistance, but as right-bearers and equal stakeholders of public resources. It is my belief that this reprioritization will create gender parity in access to social, economic and political opportunities, as well as substantive gender equality and the greater realization of basic human rights for all.

    [1] Grant-in-aid is the giving of federal funds to a state or local government to subsidize a public project.
    [2] Community driven development is an initiative that provides direct funding for development with control of the development process and decision-making authority given to disadvantaged community groups.

  • “If I no longer had to collect water for my family, I would have more time to read, study and be able to participate more in class. Water affects all parts of my life. If I do not go to collect water, I cannot wash my body or uniform. If I do not wash, I am afraid that the boys at school will think I am ‘dirty’. So, when I do not have water, my self-esteem is low” (Student from Mwituria Secondary School- Form 3, Age 17).
  • “For the girl child, domestic chores are more valued than education because it means putting food on the table. Everyday, before I can begin my studies, I walk over 3 kilometers to the river to fill a 20 liter jerry can. Then I walk it home. Only then can I walk to school. School always comes after water collection” (Student from Shiloh Naibor SecondarySchool - Form 1, Age 16).
  • Drawings were done by the study's student participants to illustrate their primary household water source. 
  • Drawings were done by the study's student participants to illustrate their primary household water source.
  • The study's findings indicated that girls spend an average of 3 hours per day collecting water.  
  • The results of the study revealed that lack of access to water is a significant factor contributing to girls' underrepresentation in kenya's secondary schools.  
  • In Kenya's rural areas, girls are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to water and are exposed to greater risks because of their responsibility to collect this vital resource.