Water, Women required to Manage

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water-drop-vector1The ‘Water Crisis’ is the #1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), and the #8 global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring within 10 years) as announced by the World Economic Forum, January 2015.

750 million people around the world lack access to safe water; approximately one in nine people.

More than twice the population of the United States lives without access to safe water.

Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or approximately 2,300 people per day.

82% of those who lack access to improved water live in rural areas, while just 18% live in urban areas.

women and waterGender refers to the different roles, rights, and responsibilities of men and women and the relations between them. Gender does not simply refer to women or men, but to the way their qualities, behaviours, and identities are determined through the process of socialization.

Gender is generally associated with unequal power and access to choices and resources. The different positions of women and men are influenced by historical, religious, economic and cultural realities. These relations and responsibilities can and do change over time.

It has become increasingly accepted that women should play an important role in water management and that this role could be enhanced through the strategy of gender mainstreaming.

The importance of involving both women and men in the management of water and sanitation and access-related questions has been recognized at the global level, starting from the 1977 United Nations Water Conference at Mar del Plata, the International Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade (1981-90) and the International Conference on Water and the Environment in Dublin (January 1992), which explicitly recognizes the central role of women in the provision, management and safeguarding of water. Reference is also made to the involvement of women in water management in Agenda 21 (chapter 18) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. Moreover, the resolution establishing the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Life’ (2005-2015), calls for women’s participation and involvement in water-related development efforts.

The differences and inequalities between women and men influence how individuals respond to changes in water resources management. Understanding gender roles, relations, and inequalities can help explain the choices people make and their different options. Involving both women and men in integrated water resources initiatives can increase project effectiveness and efficiency.

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Did you know?

Fetching water is part of the gender inequality

  • In rural Benin, girls ages 6-14 spend an average of one hour a day collecting water compared with 25 minutes for their brothers.
  • In Malawi, there are large variations in the amount of time allocated for water collection based on seasonal factors, but women consistently spend four to five times longer than men on this task.
  • In Tanzania, a survey found school attendance to be 12 per cent higher for girls in homes located 15 minutes or less from a water source than in homes one hour or more away. Attendance rates for boys appeared to be far less affected by distance from water sources.
  • In 12% of households children carry the main responsibility for collecting water, with girls under 15 years of age being twice as likely to carry this responsibility as boys under the age of 15 years.

Research in sub-Saharan Africa suggests that women and girls in low-income countries spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water—the equivalent of a year’s worth of labour by the entire Work force in France.

In Africa, 90% of the work of gathering water and wood, for the household and for food preparation, is done by women.

Providing access to clean water close to the home can dramatically reduce women’s workloads, and free up time for other economic activities. For their daughters, this time can be used to attend school.
Sanitation is one of the major challenges faced in overcoming gender inequalities

Inadequate access to safe, hygienic and private sanitation facilities is a source of shame, physical discomfort and insecurity for millions of women across the world. Cultural norms frequently make it unacceptable for women to be seen defecating—forcing many women to leave home before dawn or after nightfall to maintain privacy.
When women have to wait until dark to defecate and urinate in the open they tend to drink less during the day, resulting in all kinds of health problems such as urinary tract infections.

One problem that has been observed is that the latrine designs, especially for primary and secondary schools, are mainly prepared by male masons. The tendency therefore has been to construct latrines which are not sensitive to the special needs of girls. This has resulted in girls staying away from schools when they are menstruating, even when their schools have latrines. In the case of small boys too, the urinals are often too high. Moreover, it is important that separate sanitary latrines are constructed for boys, in order to prevent boys from taking over the latrines that are meant for the girls.

Formerly acknowledging water as a human right, and expressing the willingness to give content and effect to this right, may be a way of encouraging the international community and governments to enhance their efforts to satisfy basic human needs and to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The world has met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well in advance of the MDG 2015 deadline, according to a report issued today by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Today we recognize a great achievement for the people of the world. This is one of the first MDG targets to be met. The successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the MDGs not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people.”

Now that are world is ‘half-way’ there, what can be done next?

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