An average of 2.6 billion hours is lost yearly in sub- Sahara Africa by women in search of water, Ms Rosemary Rop, a staff of the World Bank on Water and Sanitation Programme, said on Wednesday.

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Rop said:‘’It has been estimated that an average of 2.6 billion hours a year is spent in sub-Saharan Africa by women collecting water.

“That number of hours is equivalent to the work force of France. So, you can imagine that one economy is using that work force to be productive whereas in Africa we are putting this burden on the women to become the pipes.’’

The World Bank official urged women to be proactive on utility operations, stressing that the involvement of women in the water sector was critical.

According to her, “gender issues are absolutely critical; women are the ones who spend all their time looking for water for the household.

‘’When the water source is in a state of disrepair they are the ones who are affected by the non-access to water services.

‘’They spend their whole day preoccupied with basics just providing water for their families.

‘’Instead of doing more productive things, instead of advancing themselves; instead of improving, sitting with their children to do their home work, they are busy just taking care of water and sanitation needs.”

Women, she noted, were central stakeholders when it came to the management of water resources and as such, should be at the forefront and participate fully.

‘’ We must ensure that they participate, they don’t only participate as beneficiaries to receive the water but it has also been agreed that they should participate in its service delivery.

‘’They should be consulted when designing the services; it should be agreed with them what kind of level of service do they want.

‘’Always, people who are outside of them are the ones deciding how much should be paid, yet women are the ones managing and paying for these services and should know what they are willing to pay,’’ Rop said.