The Coordinator, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH)-Gender Project Team, Prof Emmanuel Akpabio has revealed that menstruating women and twin mothers are not allowed access to drinking water in Mbiabet Ikot Udo, Ini local government area of Akwa Ibom State, over beliefs that the water would dry up.
Prof Akpabio, who is the Director, Directorate of International Programmes, University of Uyo disclosed this in an interview with journalists in Uyo on Friday.
He said the revelation was part of the report of the team’s research in three local government areas of the state.
He said the belief has been perpetrated over generations unchallenged in the affected community due to the shortage of drinking water and fear that the sole source of drinking water in the area would be contaminated.
The professor, who noted that the lack of access to WaSH constrains women, girls and other vulnerable individuals from engaging in economic and educational activities, called for strong public intervention in providing water for such communities, adding that it would also tackle the problem of open defecation.
“For Mbiabet Ikot Udo, there is only a single source of drinking water, but stagnant water (Idim Affia) sustains itself through undersurface outflow with brown coloration. This serves an estimated population of 1,200 and six more villages (over 6000 people) in the dry season when other available sources would have dried off. This water source is also obtained for domestic and other needs.
“Mothers of twin children are restricted from accessing this water. We were told the stream will spew all manner of impurities and strange substances, gradually dry off anytime it is accessed by a mother of twins, and only come back to normalcy once sacrifices/rituals are performed by the community.
“Women in their menstrual cycles are also traditionally restricted from having access to the stream and the consequence for violation is prolonged blood discharge. The victims can only get water through their spouses, children, paid services or voluntary support from members of the community. Where they cannot get any support, they will stay without water for that period,” Akpabio said.
He disclosed that the practice has fueled gender-based discrimination in access to WaSH services and subjected women to psychosocial and other forms of gender-based violence, which would in turn affect their health.
His words, “When women in their menstrual cycles are denied access to water and safe spaces for menstrual hygiene management as in Mbiabet Ikot Udo, they are directly and indirectly subjected to psychosocial and other forms of gender-based violence, as well as affect their health, as they struggle to make up for such deprivation. Their human dignity is severely violated, and they lack the voice and capacity to surmount such challenges.”