Improving women’s access to water: why business must take a role
Leon Kaye – Guardian – Monday, 01 October 2012 (originally published 24 Sept)
As factors from droughts to urbanisation add to the dire global water crisis, the ensuing misery falls even more on women and girls in the world’s poorest countries. The statistics are staggering: around the world, women and girls expend a total of over 200m hours daily collecting and hauling water. In sub-Saharan Africa, 71% of the water fetched and gathered for household use falls under the responsibility of female family members.
As Lakshmi Puri of UN Women told an audience at last month’s World Water Week in Stockholm, water scarcity leaves women particularly vulnerable. Subsistence agriculture in much of the developing world is dominated by women, and tenuous land rights can quickly lead to the loss of access to water and then more abject poverty and hunger. The precarious legal status of women in these countries exposes them to further risk. Add the burden of carrying water for household chores or to prepare food that women sell to help their families scrape by, and the daily struggle for water becomes a harsh barrier to women’s equality and economic empowerment.
Girls who must spend time carrying water instead of studying in class then find themselves caught in the same cycle of poverty as their mothers and grandmothers. Finally, policymakers often exclude women from local decisions that have an impact on women’s rights to water, pushing them outside the margins of discussions over water usage when in fact, they should have a seat at the table and be at the centre . . .
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