Access to water and education gap in China

Water is vital for our survival. This is indeed an unquestionable fact. Experts predict that future conflicts will be over water:

“It is estimated that, by 2025, 4 billion people—half the world’s population at that time—will live under conditions of severe water stress, with conditions particularly severe in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.” (Source: World Bank)

Not only an increase in the awareness about water issues has been noticed, but also a better understanding of the existing links between access to water and sanitation. This probably explains why access to water and sanitation has been one of the most commonly discussed development issues lately.

But what about the other sectors? Would limited access to water hamper the access to other services?

Yasheng Maimaiti (Xinjiang University) argues that female participation in school education is limited when their water needs related to menstrual period are not met.

Presenting his research in a plenary discussion at the GDN 2013 Annual Conference,  Yasheng Maimati proves that poor access to water, when interlinked with menstruation, has been a causal factor underlying the gender education gap in China. As indicated by the result of Maimati’s research, which is based on data collected from Chinese rural villages, a decrease of 5% in the probability of school enrolment is present when moving from rural areas where access to water is preserved, to others with limited access.

According to Maimati, inadequate access to safe water is usually coupled with poor hygiene practices, leading to infections and diseases in general, that affect particularly girls after menstruation. This, resulting in health and psychic problems, creates an increase in the cost for households to send their daughters to school. The lesser school enrolment of girls, the wider the gender education gap will get in China.

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