March 08 is celebrated as International Women’s Day (IWD) worldwide.
However, it is not a celebration if women and girls still have to walk miles to fetch their daily potable water. This year #IWD2020’s theme is #EachforEqual.
Even after 25 years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), UN-Women’s Executive Director, reports that no country has achieved equality for women and girls. Significant levels of inequality between women and men still persist. Critical areas of insufficient progress include
Access to decent work and closing the gender pay gap. Rebalancing of the care workload. Ending violence against women. Participation in power and decision-making at all levels.
The above inequality is evident in access to Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related issues too. Women and girls bear the brunt of spending an odd number of hours in collecting water for their households, enduring injuries and physical pains in doing so, and still not being able to get the water because they either are pregnant or had just delivered, according to Sera Young, professor of anthropology and global health at Northwestern University.
A Dire Situation in India
Water supply and sanitation management projects in rural and urban India in the early 2000s. Sadly, to date women have to spend at least 15-20% of their household income to get their daily supply of water i.e. if they don’t have to walk to the point source to collect that water.
In many developing countries, even if they are emerging economies like India, boys are expected to be in school, while girls are expected to lend a hand to their mothers for collecting water for potable usage. It is seen across urban and rural boundaries. India is unique as a district in India comprises of both urban and rural as well as peri-urban areas. In towns like Meerut in Uttar Pradesh state of India, the day of a woman and/or girl in a household, starts and ends with water.
Public health crisis that the polluted water brought about but also heartbreaking because of the exploitation of women and girl child due to potable water scarcity.
They had to walk long distances every day making the girls skip school and spend the entire day carrying water loads from the point source to their households, so as to help their mothers.
Local grassroots organisations, such as the NEER Foundation, are now working at the forefront to bring clean potable water to this community with the help of International nonprofits, such as the Water Collective, US.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
On average, women spend more time than men collecting, storing and protecting their water source. This takes their time away from the ability to learn, earn and contribute in other ways to their households, and ultimately to the society and economy.
In just one day, 200 million work hours are consumed, as women collect water for their families. This has graver consequences for the girls, preventing them from attending school or participating in other productive activities.
Some women have to walk about 3 miles to collect water on an average in not only the rural or desert states but also in the towns/urban slums. Collecting water can also be dangerous, especially for girls and women, who live in remote or war-stricken/conflict areas under the constant fear of abuse or attacks, using water as a weapon in wars, making them even more vulnerable.
The effort of ridding the girls and women of this drudgery should be a conscious and continuous global effort and not be left only to a day or two every year. Until then, we have a long way to go to achieve SDG 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Sourced from : World Water Reserve