It's World Water Day: Women & Water
Water is sacred. It is a basic requirement for all life. And according to experts, it is also a gender issue. According to the UN CHronicle, "In most societies women have primary responsibility for water supply, sanitation and health at the household level. This central role of women is often neglected in efforts to improve water resource management schemes and sanitation facilities. Furthermore, women suffer the largest burden when water and sanitation resources are inadequate."
Today is International World Water Day. It is held annually on March 22nd as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year's theme focuses on urban water conflicts--past years have brought awareness to water quality, water scarcity, water and disasters, ground water and other critical issues surrounding the vital stuff. But I want to take a moment to point out the connection between women and water.
Dr. Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate wrote that "We are living in a time when women's voices must be heard, considered and respected at every level. Recognizing women's vital role in the environment...is essential for a future of security and peace."
The role women play in many societies is that of caretaker. When it comes to water--collecting and storing it, caring for children, cooking, cleaning and maintaining sanitation, the backbreaking tasks fall to women. Statistics show that these tasks often represent a whole day of work; in some regions, women spend up to five hours immersed in water-related tasks.
That means, that the majority of womens' time is centered around survival, rather than empowerment. UN global conferences have repeatedly recognized that women have are continually excluded from key decision-making roles, which has led to environmental destruction, deterioration of human health an the feminization of poverty. In other words, there is a direct correlation between the subjugation of women and the health of families.
So what does that have to do with us? Most of us do not see this or experience this on a day-to-day basis. Womens rights on the other side of the world can feel far from our own reality. But it affects us nonetheless. Gender equality furthers the cause of child survival and development for all of society, so the importance of women's rights and gender equality should not be underestimated.
According to women's health advocacy experts, currently, over 50% of Americans are women, yet only 22 % of American senators are female. Worldwide, statistics show that 52% of people on the planet are women, yet only 17% of members of national parliaments worldwide are women. Though we labor under the myth that the U.S. is superior in terms of equality issues, the restrictions placed on women's choices, opportunities and participation have dire consequences for women's social and emotional and economic health.Continued on the next page