INSPIRING CHANGE AND CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
As today is International Women’s Day, we are celebrating women’s achievements in the water sector. Those who have demonstrated leadership, championed innovation and have had a positive impact on the development of the water industry. Women are inspiring and empowering future generations of girls to ‘think equal, build smart, and innovate for change’.
Leaving ‘no one behind’ must extend to including women at the forefront of decision making and promote collective action. Both are key for achieving a gender-balanced world. When it comes to water poverty, women in particular tend to bear the heaviest burden; often facing more challenges than their male counterparts. In regions where clean water is scarce, women often walk miles to fetch water for their families.
Today, women across the world will collectively spend around 200 million hours collecting water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and washing. The water that is fetched is often unclean, resulting in ill health and water related diseases (cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea).
Women in Water Leading the Way
The good news is that many women are already leading the water industry and are increasingly becoming more visible across the global water sector. For example, Diane d’Arras who is President of the International Water Association is leading this organisation to promote the positive visibility of women in the water sector; and Catarina de Albuquerque has contributed significantly to the advancement of the human right to water and sanitation.
At Brewgooder, we thought it a good idea to ask our very own Zoё Cuthbert, the oldest member of the Brewgooder team, and Kara Weekes, the newest, about the importance of women taking charge of water poverty.
Zoё: How do you think we can make the water sector more gender balanced?
The importance of recognising and nurturing talented young women in the workforce is essential for all sectors; but particularly relevant with regards to the water industry. Household water management and collection is often the responsibility of women and a lack of sanitation facilities also negatively impacts girls schooling during menstruation; yet they are rarely at the decision-making table or boardrooms discussing solutions. Collective action is key for driving a gender-balanced world and promoting equality. Mobilizing grass-root organisations and community groups led by women in rural regions could enhance their contribution to the way water and sanitation resources are managed and ensure female voices are heard. Acknowleding and promiting female role models like the ones mentioned above, is also a positive step in the right direction.
Kara: Why should women in particular play a key role in the fight against water poverty?
Those born female are disproportionately affected by water poverty - be it by missing out on school to fetch water for themselves and their families, or by the threat of physical and/or sexual violence that can come with seeking an appropriate place to urinate or defecate. In many places around the world, people who menstruate are faced with stigma, discrimination, and are prohibited from using shared resources like water taps. As this prejudice stems from, ultimately, the fact that these people were born female, I believe it should be women who take an active role in alleviating their suffering and helping to rectify inequalities. Whether that’s by actively supporting clean water campaigns, by raising awareness of the problem on social media, or by purchasing a can of Brewgooder, I think women need to lead the way in ending water poverty.
In the words of the Malawi proverb, ‘Madzi Ndi Moyo’ – water is life.
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