In commemorating the International Women’s Day 2020, we need to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities in various aspect and to mention one; ensuring that their household has water for their day to day activities, never minding its detriment to their education, health, economic and social well being.
There is widespread recognition that the world is facing a growing water crisis, affecting the well-being of millions of the poorest people. Rapidly growing populations, urbanization, agricultural intensification and climate change (such as global warming) all contribute to greater competition and scarcity of water resources. Despite the massively increased provision of water facilities over the past few decades and the development of low-cost, sustainable technical solutions to many aspects of water provision, millions still suffer from water-related diseases and the physical, social and economic burdens associated with scarcity. A number of international initiatives aim to tackle this global problem through improving the governance of water and setting targets for the provision of supplies to increased numbers of people within the general context of poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability. The greater involvement of women and the adoption of gender-sensitive approaches are increasingly seen as integral to the achievement of these targets.
In many countries, the presence or absence of safe and sufficient water supply and improved sanitation facilities has a disproportionate effect on the lives of women and girls for three main reasons. First, women and girls usually bear the responsibility for collecting water, which is often very time-consuming and arduous. Second, women and girls are more vulnerable to abuse and attack while walking to and using a toilet or open defecation site. And third, women have specific hygiene needs during menstruation, pregnancy and child-rearing.
Without safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities at home and in places of work and education, it is disproportionately harder for women and girls to lead safe, productive, healthy lives.
Across low-income countries, women and girls have primary responsibility for the management of household water supply, sanitation and health. Often, fulfilling these roles precludes any other occupation or participation in education, and their marginalization is compounded by the indignity and insecurity of having nowhere private to go to the toilet. Addressing the needs of females in relation to water, sanitation and hygiene is a key driver in achieving gender equity and locking the potential of half of global society.
To address this challenges, there should be a gender-sensitive approach to help improve the suitability, sustainability and reach of water and sanitation services by both focusing on and involving women in the facilities’ design, implementation and management. Embedding gender equity into policy at all levels will be crucial to achieving water and sanitation for all, which in turn will help advance many other parts of the SDG agenda, particularly education and work.
Women should be celebrated and not mourned.