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Fetching Water in the Unholy Hours of the Night

The Impacts of a Water Crisis on Girls' Sexual Health in Semi-urban Cameroon

Jennifer A. Thompson, Fidelis Folifac and Susan J. Gaskin

In sub-Saharan Africa, girls' daily household chores often involve fetching water for their households. This article addresses the impact of uncertain water access in semi-urban Cameroon given the problems of rapid urbanization and increasing demands for water. A school competition engaged youth and key water sector actors in a dialogue about the water crisis in Buea town, and this resulted in the publication of the water distribution schedule. The event also drew attention to the gendered implications of the crisis in relation to girls' sexual health. Our analysis suggests that girls fetching water face multiple layers of risk that include gender-based violence and blame resulting from the gendered stigma attached to young people's behavior—particularly that of girls. All this serves to increase the moral panic surrounding youth sexualities. We explicitly use the term sexualities (plural) here to recognize the multiple ways in which sexualities may be expressed, constructed and experienced (Arnfred 2005). This research points to the dire need to better understand and consider within water management strategies how girls cope with and confront these risks.