Thursday, 8 March 2012

Celebrating International Women’s Day the EWP way!

Natasha Horsfield is the Campaigns and Communications intern at End Water Poverty. In awareness for International Women's Day she blogs here about how poor water and sanitation impacts particularly on women and girls.

Women and girls around the world continue to be the most affected by lack of access to safe water and sanitation, particularly in rural communities where populations have the lowest access to these essential facilities. Improving access to clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene is therefore vital for women’s empowerment; a key issue to this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Empowering Rural Women!

In many societies it is women and girls’ responsibility to collect water. The long hours this requires every day means women and girls have less time to attend school and engage in economic activities. This severely limits female access to education and contributes to women’s marginal economic status, reinforcing gender inequalities in education and employment. Women’s traditional role in caring for the sick means their time is also restricted by frequent illness (both theirs and their family’s) caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.

Poor sanitation and hygiene increases women’s risk of dying during childbirth and also impedes female access to education as girls often drop out of school when they reach puberty because of menstrual hygiene needs. This is an important issue in 60 developing countries where only 37% of primary schools have access to adequate sanitation facilities.

Lack of access to adequate sanitation also particularly affects women and girl’s personal security as they frequently risk being sexually assaulted when walking to fields to defecate or when using latrines in remote locations and after dark. This danger is in addition to the loss of personal dignity entailed in open defecation.

Improving access to clean water and adequate sanitation and hygiene leads to women’s empowerment and the reduction of gender inequalities in society. The UN announcement this week that the MDG target to halve the number of people living without safe drinking water has been met goes a great way to achieving this, but there is still a long way to go to increase access to clean water and particularly sanitation, and ensure that all women and girls can benefit from the resulting opportunities and the safety they deserve!

The World Walks for Water and Sanitation is walking in solidarity with women and girls around the world between the 17th-25th March to highlight the issues they face as a result of poor water and sanitation, and to call on world leaders to take action to end the water and sanitation crisis. Why not join us in solidarity with these women this International Women’s Day by joining our online walk , signing up for one of our many walks around the world near you or organising your own!

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