Tag Archives: women

Why women’s involvement in water and sanitation development is important

Women in WASH

Last week on March 8 was International Women’s Day (IWD). This year’s theme was “Inspiring Change”.  Four women inspiring change in the WASH sector came together during the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, in September last year. They were Water For People’s Kate Fogelberg; IRC’s Vida Duti and Jane Nabunnya Mulumba, and Alice Bouman, President of the Women for Water Partnership. They talked about the role of women in the WASH sector.

Women leadership in WASH is needed and should be actively promoted. This was one of the main outcomes of the panel discussion on Women and WASH led by the four women mentioned above. The discussion highlighted the role of women leaders in WASH, the question of why more focus on the role of women is so important, and what lack of access to improved water and sanitation services means for women in rural areas in different country contexts.

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Dear Congress: Support Rural Women by Lisa Schechtman

March 8, 2012 – Dear Congress: Support Rural Women | Source – Lisa Schechtman – Global Policy TV – Lisa Schechtman is the head of policy and advocacy at WaterAid in America, the U.S. member of WaterAid International, the world’s largest NGO focused on providing safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH) services for poor communities in 27 countries around the world. 

Imagine being a girl growing up in a village in sub-Saharan Africa. There’s a good chance there is no well in your village, and your nearest source of water is a river or a stream that is as many as three miles away over what might be rocky, isolated terrain.

The water may not be safe to drink, because your village probably also lacks sanitation facilities, but it’s your only choice.

So, instead of going to school, you spend at least 30 minutes a day, often longer, walking to the river, filling jerry cans, and struggling home with over 40 pounds on your head. You risk stumbling, animal attacks, sexual assault. At last you get home, and, while you have water to drink, it makes you sick and leaves you caring for family members who are also sick. It doesn’t matter though: you have to do it all over again the next day—and every day after that.Sadly, this is not the only harm that comes from your basic need for water. Carrying heavy loads can lead to uterine prolapse, a potentially serious and excruciating condition that may result in the inability to ever have children safely.If you or a family member is living with HIV/AIDS, you need extra water to keep things clean and hopefully stave off infections that kill people with compromised immune systems. That means more trips to the river, more time away from school or work.

Focusing Attention on the Critical Role of Gender in Water and Sanitation

In Nepal, reducing the time it takes to fetch water by just one hour could increase girls’ school enrollment by 30%.

While women’s lives around the world have improved dramatically, gaps remain in many areas, including water and sanitation. For example, a recent study in 44 developing countries found that women carry water more often than men by a ration of nearly 2 to 1. Time is but one cost. There are many. How can we draw more attention to gender issues in water and sanitation ? Perhaps through drawings.

The World Bank/WSP 2012 Calendar combines illustrations,  humor, and data to focus attention on the role of gender in developing countries’ ability to ensure improved water and sanitation services for all citizens.  Gender is also the focus of the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development .

Take a look. Images are worth a thousand words– and they can speak on behalf of billions.

Comments and feedback on the calendar are welcome at wsp@worldbank.org.

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India – SHE creates a WAVE of change in Trichy

We are so used to turning our eyes away when we see somebody defecating in the open that we fail to reflect on this widespread practice, prevalent much more in India than in other countries. It is not only visually disturbing but has hazardous implications for public health in our cities.

Some people may engage in open defecation out of habit or laziness, but for the large part of the population of urban India that lives in slums, more often than not, it is not a matter of choice. They have no private toilets and no access to community toilets that actually function. Damaged septic tanks and broken drainage pipes make community latrines unusable. Children go to the nearby drain or wherever they find open spaces. Women wait for nightfall to answer nature’s call, and then too only in groups for fear of assault. It is difficult to maintain hygiene for children as they typically do not have access to water to wash their bottoms and soap to wash their hands.

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Philippines – EcoSavers:Maintaining a “bank account” for solid wastes

A common pass book we know is one that contains cash deposits and withdrawal amounts in detail, but in the Entrepreneurs Multipurpose Cooperative in the town of Pavia, they issue pass books indicating kilos of bottles, plastics, and recyclables items as deposits.

The pass books belong to women entrepreneurs called Eco-Savers, majority women vendors and microenterprise operators, who in partnership with the local government of Pavia, are discharged with the responsibility of managing the town’s solid wastes, especially those generated in the public market.

Joy Palmada, manager of the cooperative, proudly shows the bundles of pass books to visitors and clients and those interested how the scheme works and how it has made Pavia a garbage-free municipality.

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Eco-Friendly, Women-Centric Approaches Towards Female Sanitation

Many women in the developing world can miss up to 50 school or working days per year due to lack of proper feminine hygiene.

Jani Pad

To alleviate the problem, in Rwanda a Harvard MBA graduate Elizabeth Scharpf formed the Sustainable Health Enterprise (SHE). The organization then started working with Rwandan women to make sanitary pads made with banana-tree fibers. Since 2009, SHE has also trained 5,000 Rwandan women to set up their own micro-enterprises, creating an industry that is as sustainable as its product. They have also been educating women about female hygiene to create health awareness.

With every woman-led business that SHE invests in, roughly 100 jobs are created and approximately 100,000 girls and women gain access to affordable sanitary products. Scharpf hopes to expand the Rwanda model to other countries over time.

The Jani Pad

More recently, five students from Sweden and Norway banded together to create sanitary protection using fibers from water hyacinth. The water hyacinth in Lake Victoria, Kenya is an invasive plant that causes a lot of environmental problems. As the plant grows very fast, it can easily blanket an entire lake cutting off light – this creates havoc for transportation and also destroys local ecosystems. However as the fibers of the plant can be spun and used for paper making, it was put to use to create sanitary pads.

Roughly 870,000 girls in Kenya miss four days of school every month due to a lack of feminine protection and underwear. The Jani pad is made of four layers of water-hyacinth paper. Each layer has different characteristics like perforated holes to  improve absorption or beeswax to prevent leakage. The pad also comes with slits on the top layer to conform to the wearer’s body.

Importance of Women Entrepreneurs

Both of these products have women-centric approaches to women-centric problems. According to the US State Department there are more than 200 million women entrepreneurs worldwide and they earn more than $10 trillion every year. Environmental issues, social problems and community upliftment are all areas that women naturally gravitate towards and all these areas present ample business opportunities as demonstrated by these two initiatives.

However in spite of everything that women can bring to the work place, in many parts of the world they are met with unfair disadvantages. International Women’s Day highlights this and brings to light the importance of women towards creating balanced societies everywhere.

Source

Indian brides herald a toilet revolution

Young women are part of a campaign to bring much-needed social change and improve sanitation facilities

If you don’t have a toilet at home, you might not get a bride in India. In a silent revolution of sorts, Indian women across the country, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, have a single condition before they agree to a match – the groom must have a toilet in his home.

The “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign, initiated by the government, is co-opting young women to bring in much-needed social change. Across the country, more people have access to mobile phones than to toilets.

Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, one of the NGOs involved in the campaign, says it has succeeded in certain areas. “Lack of basic hygiene at present is very much a marginalised farmer’s practice,” she says. “There are affluent communities with land and concrete houses who are now building toilets.”

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India, Tamil Nadu: housing and toilets for women self-help groups

Photo: IVDP

An Indian NGO that provides housing and toilets for women’s groups was a finalist in the 2010 World Habitat Awards. Established in 1979, the Integrated Village Development Project (IVDP) mobilises poor women to form self-help saving groups (SHG).

Some 6,700 groups have been established do far, each of which is made up of 12 to 20 disadvantaged women. IVDP has sourced affordable credit lines for the members of the saving groups, enabling the construction of 24,705 houses and 17,000 toilets. Awareness-raising campaigns help improve wider vulnerable groups’ understanding of water, sanitation and personal hygiene practices.

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India: liberated women scavengers visit Parliament, meet Speaker

A new beginning: A group of liberated women scavengers during their visit to the Parliament House in New Delhi, India. Photo: R. V. Moorthy/The Hindu

It was an unforgettable moment for 300 women who used to work as manual scavengers as they entered the precincts of Parliament to get an experience of the Lok Sabha [Lower House] on Tuesday [16 August 2010] for the first time.

Treated as “untouchables” and ostracised by society for the nature of their work for decades, the women belong to a class of workers who used to manually clean human excreta.

The 300 women, who hailed from Alwar and Tonk districts of Rajasthan, have stopped working as manual scavengers now. They were received by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as special guests.

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Swimming upstream: why sanitation, hygiene and water are so important to mothers and their daughters

Water, sanitation and hygiene and the most under-recognized interventions when it comes to improving the health and well-being of women, say Clarissa Brocklehurst and Jamie Bartram in an editorial in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization [1].

Let us start with a pregnant woman. She is likely to have to collect and carry water for her baby’s delivery from a hand pump outside her home; globally more than 40% of households do not have a water supply on their premises. If she is very unfortunate she will be among the 13% who do not even have a hand pump and rely on an unimproved water source, made even more risky by the fact that most people in her community lack even a basic toilet. These unhygienic conditions take on new significance when she weans her child. Diarrhoea kills 1.5 million children every year1 and there is a strong link between diarrhoea and malnutrition.

By around the age of six, the child should be going to school. However, if this child is a girl, much of her time will be needed for tasks at home, including water collection. In half of all households worldwide, water is carried to the home and in 72% of households, women and girls are the primary water collectors. Girls are twice as likely as boys to be the carriers. Our girl child is exposed to an increasing range and burden of infections as she encounters the world beyond her home. Intestinal helminths affect 400 million – one in three – schoolchildren. Infestations such as hookworm reduce physical growth and impair intellectual development. Girls weakened by energy loss, intestinal worms and repeated infections are predisposed to anaemia that takes on new significance as they enter menarche, which may also mark the end of their limited schooling. The lack of school toilets with privacy and facilities for menstrual hygiene contribute to sporadic attendance and drop out. If our girl child does not overcome these constraints and she drops out of school, she will likely face early marriage and early childbearing.

But the vicious cycle of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene that keeps women in poor health, out of education, in poverty and doomed to bearing sickly children can be reversed.

The first hurdle our mother and child encountered was the unsanitary conditions and lack of hygiene at the time of birth. A study in Nepal showed that hand-washing by birth attendants and mothers increased newborn survival rates by up to 44%. Hygiene promotion has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective health interventions, particularly with the use of marketing techniques based on those used by private companies.

In sanitation, though global progress has been poor, some developing countries achieved up to 60% reduction in the proportion of their population lacking improved sanitation. It is likely that political will, modest financing cleverly applied and a focus on changing behaviour and social norms, not just installing infrastructure, contributed to this rapid progress. Building demand for toilets, especially among those people who have practiced open defecation all their lives, helps trigger household investments. Evidence that these approaches are effective suggests that accelerated progress is possible.

Barriers in providing drinking-water can also be overcome. Innovations include low-cost drilling techniques and cheaper hand pumps, the use of locally-managed, small-scale systems, entrepreneurial water kiosks and civil society intermediation between poor communities and service providers. Providing water, sanitation and hygiene in schools is increasingly a priority for ministries of education in developing countries. Emerging designs for toilets that incorporate privacy and facilities for menstrual hygiene provide a multitude of benefits. For instance, women who have been to school are less likely to die during childbirth – each additional year of education prevents two maternal deaths for every 1000 women.

The authors add that “water, sanitation and hygiene also enable women to play roles in their community’s development” including “decision-making and management of water and sanitation systems”.

Clarissa Brocklehurst is Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF headquarters in New York. Jamie Bartram is Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.

[1] Read the full editorial, including references:
Brocklehurst, C. and Bartram, J. (2010). Swimming upstream: why sanitation, hygiene and water are so important to mothers and their daughters. Bulletin of the World Health Organization ; vol. 88, no. 7 ; p. 482.
doi: 10.2471/BLT.10.080077