Category Archives: Water and Gender

Water, Women and Marital Violence in a Bangladesh Village


This study explored the implications of a groundwater development project on women’s workload and their exposure to marital violence. (Global Water Forum)

The global water crisis has affected women and men in many different ways. There is evidence that millions of women carry a double burden of disadvantage from the water crisis.1,2 In many instances, water development projects and water privatization restrict women’s access to water, further increasing their burden.2,3In rural Bangladesh, women are primarily responsible for domestic water use and men are mainly engaged in irrigation.4 However technology-intensive water development initiatives have largely emphasized irrigation, thus facilitating men’s water needs.5,6

Gendered roles and marital violence in rural Bangladesh

Marital male violence against women is widespread in rural Bangladesh. A recent study showed that almost 62% of married women were subject to either physical or sexual violence by their husbands.7 However, women are not abused randomly. Researchers mention many cases of wife battery being used as a punishment for failing to fulfill gendered household obligations.8,9 This study explored the implications of a groundwater development project on women’s workload and their exposure to marital violence.10 Fieldwork was conducted in a northwest Bangladesh village between July 2004 and July 2005.

Women's community meeting, Bangladesh. Source: waterdotorg

Women’s community meeting, Bangladesh. Source:waterdotorg

The water development project

Groundwater was the only reliable source of water in the vicinity of the study village. There were three means of lifting groundwater: deep tube-wells (DTWs), shallow tube-wells (STWs), and handpumps. DTWs and STWs are operated by motorized pumps and are exclusively used for irrigation, whereas shallow handpumps are used for domestic purposes. However, in the dry season, only a few handpumps lift water because of a lowering of the groundwater table.4 The project facilitated DTW-based irrigation. This contributed to an increase in the area’s agricultural productivity, however many households faced a domestic water shortage in the dry season because the extra irrigation water lowered the groundwater table further.

Gender roles, dry season water crisis and women’s workload

Women’s water needs were mostly related to their domestic obligations, whereas men’s water needs were mostly related to irrigation. The study estimated that, on average, a woman spent 7 hours and 25 minutes daily on domestic water-related work, but a man spent only 19.2 minutes. In the dry season, to fulfill their obligations, women had to walk to distant wells, which resulted in an increase of their domestic workload (see Table 1). A number of women (15.1%) also faced severe difficulties in fulfilling their obligations because of the extra time spent collecting water (see Table 1). Therefore, the development project actually reduced the ability of women to fulfill their normative gender role.

Table 1. Survey of dry season water shortage, increased workload, and women’s difficulties. Note: *11 households that did not have any female members who carried out water-related work were excluded.

Table 1. Survey of dry season water shortage, increased workload, and women’s difficulties. *11 households that did not have any female members who carried out water-related work were excluded.

Women’s obligations, increased workload, and marital violence

Data indicated that women were obliged to unconditionally obey their husbands. A 36-year old woman exemplified this obligation: “but I made a mistake, as I argued with him… ”. The interviews also indicated that women were expected to manage time. A woman that had experienced violence said it occurred as a punishment for failing to fulfill her household duties. It also illustrates how the lack of water contributed to make the situation worse:

I went to fetch water… It took a long time because there was a long line… but when I came back, I saw that the man was home. He asked me to serve lunch…. I replied that it took a long time to collect water (as our nearest three handpumps had dried out). But he said that it was my problem if other women can cook on time for their husbands! So when I told him to go to see the deep (DTW)…he got angry and started beating me… I did not argue anymore; rather I went to cook…”.

The other informants supported a perception of marital violence being very common and justified, for a range of reasons such as burning the food while cooking, not having washed the husband’s clothes, not making good-tasting food, etc. Because the water crisis meant that women had to walk to distant wells, sometimes several times in a day, it directly challenged the basic gendered norm system and increased the possibility of socially justified violence.


The water development project largely facilitated men’s irrigation water needs by installing DTWs. Irrigation water had become available all year, whereas the domestic water supply decreased. Many women thus had to walk to distant wells for domestic water collection, which increased their workload. This challenged their possibilities of fulfilling household obligations, thereby increasing the risk of normative marital male violence against women as a punishment for their failure.

In a patriarchal social context, a gender-blind water development project may have severe negative consequences on the lives of many women. We suggest that any water sector projects (e.g., irrigation, fisheries, or health and sanitation projects) should take women’s contextual gendered roles and obligations and social aspects of marital violence into account. Before implementation, there is a need to explore how the development project may influence or be influenced by social norms that determine the relationship between men and women. At the same time, it is important for development interventions to challenge the existing gendered norm systems and to initiate a discussion within the community on gendered roles, rights and obligations.


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Women and Water: A Path to Empowerment


NISHTHA has over 35 years of program experience in the areas of health and hygiene, women and girl empowerment, legal advocacy, water resource installation and maintenance, vocational support, and education for sustainable agriculture. (Journal of Gender & Water)

NISHTHA means devotion or commitment in Bengali and is also the name of a small organization in West Bengal, India that was founded by women. NISHTHA has over 35 years of program experience in the areas of health and hygiene, women and girl empowerment, legal advocacy, water resource installation and maintenance, vocational support, and education for sustainable agriculture.

NISHTHA  works to empower women to fight for equal rights, equal opportunities and equal dignity, especially when it comes to water and sanitation. Globally, women take part in all water-related activities, yet they often do not have a role in any decision concerning water.

When the government brought piped water supply to our district, they decided to provide only household connections that poor families could not afford. NISHTHA intervened and organized water committees – comprised only of women.  These committees applied for group connections to provide water for their entire community. These water committees are still functioning and managing water effectively today. They have also implemented certain rules for using the tap water (see below) since the water supply is limited. These rules include attending water committee meetings, paying monthly water fees, and only using the water for household needs, not agriculture.

In our villages, rural sanitation is also a large concern because only 30% have access to a safe sanitation. Women suffer the worse without a latrine at home, resulting in accidents and molestation while defecating in darkness. To help solve this problem, NISHTHAprovides loans to women groups to construct family latrines. To date, these women groups have already constructed 4,500 latrines.

NISHTHA is working relentlessly to eliminate gender discrimination. Women with proper empowerment will provide sustainable improvement of health, education and socio-economic conditions of village.
Chayya Naskar stays in a dilapidating hut with walls and roof covered by polythene sheets in the tiny village of Tripuranagar. Chayya’s parents arranged her marriage with due negotiation with her in-laws when she was only 16 years old. But when she gave birth to a female child, her husband left her and the little daughter and she was forced to live in a small and unhygienic hut. She felt herself in deep depression and frustration.

At this moment  our women’s group intervened and provided her training, a loan and counseling and it took quite a few months to bring back her self-confidence. Now she is a different Chayya Naskar. She is a vegetable vendor, and with her income from the business she is supporting herself and her daughter. She is now a proud and energized women, and her motto is to help and support other women.

Rules and Regulations of Water Committees

The Water Committees / Women’s Groups have formulated  rules and regulations and those are common to all.

  1. Nobody is allowed to bathe on the tap water, cannot wash clothes or clean utensils, and cannot use water for after brushing teeth.
  2. Nobody is allowed to water the kitchen gardens from tap water.
  3. Every family has to deposit their subscription to the authorized person of the water committee strictly on the specified date.
  4. All the members have to attend  the meetings of the committee.

NISHTHA was born in a very remote village of South 24 Parganas by a group of rural women who were victims of gender discrimination and had a mission of empowering the village women.  Mina Das has lead the organization for over 30 years, working to empower women and girls through gender equity initiatives, education and health promotion, as well as the organizations emphasis on self-sufficiency in efforts to bring clean water, safe handling and hygiene education to rural women in West Bengal.

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Water Solutions: A Q&A with Matt Damon and Gary White


Actor Matt Damon and civil engineer and water specialist Gary White, uses a gender lens when designing solutions — prioritizing women as the change agents in their communities. (Stanford Medicine)

Remember that iconic poem you read in high school? The poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was musing then about sailors lost at sea. But those words written in 1834 could also be speaking about a crisis in the world today.

Globally, 780 million people have no access to safe water, and 2.5 billion lack access to toilets and sanitation. Overwhelmingly, women and girls in the developing world are most severely impacted by this crisis. That’s why, the nonprofit co-founded by actor Matt Damon and civil engineer and water specialist Gary White, uses a gender lens when designing solutions — prioritizing women as the change agents in their communities.


When you travel to some of the world’s poorest countries, it’s women who are walking the dusty roads carrying water jugs. And it’s because women bear the main responsibility for keeping their households supplied with water, caring for the sick, maintaining a hygienic home environment and bringing up healthy children that says women are a critical part of developing comprehensive solutions.

Paul Costello, Stanford Medicine’s executive editor, hosted this Q&A with’s co-founders to find out how they intend to solve the global water crisis.


Costello: Matt, you could have chosen any issue to get involved in. What was it about water that stirred your passion?

Damon: The enormity of it. Water underpins everything. My personal moment came in early 2000 on a trip to Zambia. I went on a water collection with a 14-year-old girl from a village I was visiting. It was a long walk, and we talked about her hopes and plans; she said she was going to go and live in the big city and become a nurse. After she told me about her plans, I realized that if someone had not possessed the foresight to sink a bore well near where she lived, she wouldn’t have been able to go to school and she would have spent most of her time scavenging for water. It just hit me how profound an impact access to safe water has on an individual, a family and an entire community. I just can’t think of a cause that has a larger impact than access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation — especially for women and girls.


COSTELLO: Why especially women and girls?

DAMON: Women and girls spend about 200 million hours a day securing supplies of water resulting in significant losses in productivity. In addition, inadequate sanitation — lack of toilets — in schools leads to significant absenteeism of young girls. When not in school, girls often have to seek sanitation in the early morning or late at night to gain a small amount of privacy, risking their personal safety.


COSTELLO: Currently there are 780 million people without access to safe water and 2.5 billion without access to sanitation. Gary, what’s the human cost?

WHITE: Every 21 seconds a child under 5 succumbs to a preventable, waterborne illness. Solving the water and sanitation crisis is the single most cross-cutting investment opportunity to alleviate poverty, increase women’s empowerment, advance early childhood education and improve basic public health. According to the World Health Organization’s The World Health Report 2002, halving the proportion of those globally without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation by 2015 would result in an estimated 272 million more school attendance days a year, and the value of deaths averted, based on discounted future earnings, would amount to $3.6 billion a year.


COSTELLO: What are biggest challenges related to water and sanitation globally?

WHITE: Lack of awareness or understanding of the crisis is one obstacle. It is difficult for people who are accustomed to reach out and turn on a tap when they want a drink of water to fully grasp the magnitude of the crisis. In industrialized countries, the richness of our water security is nearly invisible — while in many developing countries, a real-time tragedy is unfolding.

Another obstacle is the traditional model of charity itself. It would require $200 billion in capital to solve the global water and sanitation crisis in the next five years. The total per year of external investment and aid flowing to the developing world is about $9 billion. One of the challenges is that much of these investments are made in the form of aid and subsidies that bypass those living in poverty. The situation is compounded by the fact that most non-governmental organizations do not segment the market — everyone is viewed as equally poor and requiring aid. Given the inverse relationship between the level of subsidy and sustainability of water infrastructure, this type of approach has no real prospect of driving scalable and sustainable solutions. Therefore we must think carefully about how to deploy charity and where market-based models can really make a permanent difference.


COSTELLO: Is the problem that there’s just not enough water?

WHITE: Ultimately, there is enough water on the planet for everyone. If every person in the world who currently lacks a safe water supply secured 50 liters of water for basic daily use, it would take a mere fraction of 1 percent of the world’s water resources to provide it.

Inadequate distribution is a large part of what prevents people from accessing safe water. In urban slums, piping may run just beneath entire communities, bypassing them because the predominant thinking is that families living in poverty cannot afford to pay the connection fees to gain access to the water or sanitation systems. Through’s WaterCredit initiative, we’re demonstrating that this is not the case.

WaterCredit catalyzes small loans — typically $50 to $200 — to people in developing countries who lack access to traditional lenders and are in need of clean water and toilets. As loans are repaid, they can be redeployed to additional people in need of safe water, reducing the need for subsidies, which can then be freed up to help those who need it most.


COSTELLO: So paint the picture for us. What does the world look like when you realize there’s truly progress out there?

WHITE: It looks like right now. We have made and are continuing to make tremendous progress. While it is true that today one child dies every 21 seconds from a water-related disease, only a few years ago this number was one every 15 seconds. This slight change saves 1,646 children every day. In early 2012, the United Nations announced that one of the Millennium Development Goals for water was met ahead of schedule. Between 1990 and 2010, 2 billion people gained access to improved drinking water []. We see this as an immense opportunity. Achieving universal access to safe water and the dignity of a toilet is within reach. We will need to remain focused and track and plan for new disruptions such as changes in climate that may detract from progress we’ve made. The answer to the crisis really comes down to mobilizing the global will, just as we did with the AIDS epidemic in Africa.


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Gender perspectives on water and food security

With USAID project support, young women in the Oromiya Region of southern Ethiopia attend school with the privacy and security of latrines, a nearby supply of safe drinking water and membership in the school health club where they learn about hand washing and the 10 Building Blocks for Better Health!

Remarks by Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women at the Closing Plenary Session of the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, 31 August 2012.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning,

It is a great pleasure for UN Women to be here and attend this most significant event on something that sustains life for all and that is so critical to all, and particularly to women – water.

As UN Women, I would to thank the Stockholm International Water Institute for inviting us and, more importantly, for making sure that this session, which brings this Week to a conclusion, includes a gender perspective. Because women are so intrinsically involved and affected by water and food security, I applaud the fact that much of the Conference was dedicated to exploring and establishing the symbiosis between gender equality and women’s empowerment, water security and food security.

I had the privilege of participating in panels and discussions and hearing practitioners from the ground speak on these issues, bring to life actual experiences, and report good practices and lessons learnt in making that connection.

Our meeting this week in Stockholm and our rich debates are taking place against the backdrop of severe droughts around the world. From the worst drought in 56 years in the Midwest of the United States, to the Karnataka’s drought in India, to the protracted drought in the Sahel region of West Africa, we have seen the very concrete consequences of the nexus between lack of water and food security.

We have also seen how, in our globalized world, something that happens in one corner of the world affects us all. The impact of the draught in the Midwest has already resulted in higher prices for corn and soybeans, two of the most important food crops worldwide. In the Sahel, 18.7 million people are facing food insecurity and more than 1 million children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. And women in this region carry the burden of feeding their families and of caring for the sick and the starving.

These events are a stark reminder of how the environmental dimension has direct economic and social consequences. They remind us of the critical linkages between these three dimensions and of the strong connection between water scarcity or availability, affordability and quality, and food security.

Today, I would like to highlight the importance of the gender perspective in looking at these connections. Women and girls – and the way they are impacted by access to water, or lack of it – constitute a large part of the picture, and most importantly a large part of the solution, in the nexus between water and food security. They are disproportionately impacted by the burden of food and water use and collection and production. At the same time, they are both the beneficiaries and enablers of food- and water-secure future.

I recently returned from the Rio+20 Conference, where, each in their own right, gender equality and women’s empowerment, water security and sustainable water management, and food security and agricultural development were identified as priorities for our sustainable future and for sustainable development.

The Rio+20 outcome document clearly stresses the commitment of the international community ‘to the progressive realization of access to safe and affordable drinking water and basic sanitation for all, as necessary for poverty eradication, women’s empowerment and protection of human health”.

The outcome document also reaffirms the commitment of the international community to ensuring women’s equal rights, access, participation and leadership in the economy, society and political decision-making. This is important because gender equality and women’s empowerment is not only a social issue; it is also an economic and environmental issue. It stresses the need to ensure women’s leadership and effective participation in sustainable development policies, programmes and decision-making at all levels. This includes of course water and food security.

Rio+20 further reiterated the importance of empowering rural women as critical agents for enhancing agricultural and rural development, food security and nutrition. Women’s access to productive and economic resources is also emphasized, which, as we know, is essential in the context of access to water. This provides a strong basis for accelerated action in these areas.

This connection, which is so clearly made in the Rio+20 outcome, must be carried forward. As we approach the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, a new set of goals will be launched – the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

The three priorities of gender equality and women’s empowerment, water, and food security must be strongly interlinked in the goals that will cover each of these areas. In other words, the goal on water must have strong indicators and targets capturing the gender equality and women’s empowerment dimension. This is also true of the goal on food security and, in fact, of all other Sustainable Development Goal.

More specifically, a goal on water should balance three important dimensions: efficiency on water use, pollution reduction and protection of ecosystems. The issue of sustainable production and consumption patterns, which has been discussed in this Conference and so vividly discussed in posters outside, must also be captured.

The gender equality and women’s empowerment dimension must be reflected with gender targets and indicators on women’s full participation in water governance, the alleviation of their work burden and the availability of gender-sensitive infrastructures and services. Statistical challenges related to the availability of sex-disaggregated data and gender sensitive indicators on water, rather than detracting us from using meaningful indicators, should be used as a trigger for political demand for the regular collection and analysis of important data, such as those collected by time use surveys.

In this effort, we count on your support and on the support of Sweden, as a leader on water and on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Water is used for a wide range of activities – all of which have a bearing on gender equality and women’s empowerment. In the household, it is used for drinking, cleaning, conservation, storage and preparation of crops and food. For instance in developing countries, most women’s survival strategies for lifting themselves and their families out of poverty through preparing and selling food takes place in the household.

Current estimates have shown that 70 percent of the world’s water is needed for agriculture, 20 percent for industry, and 10 percent for personal use. Of course, these dimensions are interrelated as agricultural and industrial use of water also affects personal and household use. Because women depend more on non-irrigated and rainfed agriculture and because they are not equally represented in the industry sector, water scarcity disproportionately affects women and jeopardizes the achievement of their human rights. Water is a human right and women’s rights are human rights.

The recently-issued 2012 MDG report points out that, while the MDG target on water has been largely met, 783 million people still remain without access to an improved source of drinking water. The gap between urban and rural areas remains wide, with the number of people in rural areas without an improved water source five times greater than in urban areas.

On reducing hunger, too, although strides have been made, about 800 million people remain hungry and we must prevent backsliding, which is likely due to food crises and increased food prices.

The lack of access to water often results in additional burden for women and girls. When water supplies are not readily accessible, it must be carried from its source and women and girls continue to bear the primary responsibility for water collection. The 2012 MDG Report highlights that, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 71 percent of the water collection burden falls on women and girls. This heavy burden is also the case in other parts of the world. Globally, it is estimated that women spend more than 200 million hours per day collecting water.

The linkages between water and food security are most significant in four ways:

Firstly, in gendered patterns of production: women dominate subsistence agriculture and unpaid water collection tasks while men dominate the cash crops. Women are involved both in irrigated and non-irrigated agriculture. However a larger number of women than men are engaged in rain-fed agriculture, which puts them in a more at risk of changing weather patterns. In addition, water rights are often related to land rights, which preclude women smallholder farmers from accessing irrigated water.

Secondly, in gender entitlement systems: looking at gender differences in the access and control over water and other productive resources, assets, services and opportunities for ensuring food and nutrition security. Due to pervasive gender norms and behaviors, women and girls have restricted access to productive resources, such as water, land, agricultural inputs, finance and credit, extension services and technology.

This, in turn, limits the efficiency of the agricultural sector to deliver food security for all. For instance, poor women, rural women, women in peri-urban areas, women farmers, have often been denied access to a water source due to social constructs, such as class, ethnicity and cultural constraints in the community. And it is often an issue of intersectional discrimination as well.

Thirdly, in the gendered division of labour, women and girls are the most overburdened with managing water, food and energy scarcity with their unpaid work, especially in developing countries. Entrenched gender roles mean that women and girls often bear the brunt of the associated hardships as growers and processors of food, responsible for the nutrition of their family, and water collectors.

They spend a disproportionate number of hours on labour-intensive, time-consuming and unpaid domestic tasks such as fetching water and firewood, washing clothes and dishes and preparing meals. This leads to their drudgery, reducing their opportunities to education, decent work, political engagement, and perpetuating the intergenerational transfer of poverty and disempowerment.

Finally, in gendered patterns of governance and leadership, which exclude women from policy making and management in the water and agricultural sectors. Although women carry most of the water related tasks, play a key role in food production, especially in subsistence farming and perform most of the unpaid care work, their participation in decision making processes on water and food management remains very low.

In 2012, women held less than 6 percent of all ministerial positions in the field of environment, natural resources and energy. This is why women’s equal representation in governance mechanisms must be a target of a new SDG on water.

The combined impacts of the recent economic and financial crises, volatile energy and food prices, and climate change, have exacerbated water and food scarcity and their detrimental impact on women and girls. Creating a water and food secure world requires putting women and girls at the center of water and food related policies, actions and financing.

Empowering women and girls fuels thriving economies and inclusive societies, spurring productivity and growth. I would like to highlight four urgent actions related to water that must be taken to unleash women’s potential and increase water and food security.

Firstly, we need to recognize that women are an important part of the solution. We need to recognize women as water resource managers, farmers and irrigators who contribute to ensuring sustainable food production and consumption, and safeguarding the environment and water resources within the households and communities. This must be done in laws, policies and through social awareness programmes in communities.

Secondly, we need to increase our efficiency in managing food and water resources, ensuring that women are empowered along the water and food supply chain, that their food production and water management roles are supported. This involves recognizing women as independent users of water and enabling women to access water rights, regardless of land ownership; supporting women’s food production systems and value chains, including in adaptation and mitigation of climate change; and alleviating women and girls’ unpaid work burden associated with water collection, food production and processing, and care work.

It has also been proven that improvements in infrastructure services— especially water and electricity and particularly for poor women in urban areas and rural women—can help free up women’s time spent on domestic and care work. Electrification in rural South Africa, for instance, has increased women’s labour force participation by about 9 percent. In Bangladesh, it has led to more leisure time for women and increased welfare. In Pakistan, putting water sources closer to the home was associated with increased time allocated to productive market work. In Tanzania, a survey found that girls’ school attendance was 25 percent higher for girls from homes located 15 minutes or less from a water source than in homes one hour or more away.

Thirdly, we need to address the multifaceted gender discriminations in accessing and controlling productive resources, such as water and land, assets and services. Evidence suggests that investing in women-owned food and agricultural enterprises could narrow the resource gap and increase agricultural yields. If women were to have equal access to agriculture services, including irrigation services, it is estimated that agricultural yields would increase by 15 to 20 percent, reducing the number of hungry people by 100 to 150 million.

For this, women must be provided with technical training on water management, irrigation, rainwater harvesting, other small holder irrigation technologies and rain-fed agriculture. For instance, in South Africa, Lesotho and Uganda, the women ministers for water are implementing affirmative action programmes in the water sector to train women for water and sanitation related careers, including science and engineering. At local level, women have found their voices and have now been trained to locate water sources in the village, decide on the location of facilities and repair pumps.

Water supply services must cover the needs of the poorer sections of the population by initiating reforms that make water affordable to poor families in rural, urban and peri-urban areas. It is indeed common knowledge that the poorest, the majority of whom are women, have less access to safe drinking water and pay more for their water usage. Access to land, extension services, credit and other productive resources is also key.

Fourthly, we need to leverage the voice, participation and influence of women in managing the sustainable use of water resources and food, and sharing benefits equally. Women must be recognized as important decision-makers in water governance. In all countries and at all levels, women should be members of water management institutions, such as water user organizations.

This involves reducing membership fees and broadening the mandate of irrigation schemes to acknowledge and include multiple water users. This will not help ensuring that gender perspectives are mainstreamed in all governance and decision making processes related to policy development, implementation and monitoring, service delivery, and financing on water and agriculture. This will only work with strong accountability frameworks that ensure that women’s agency in water and food governance is encouraged and facilitated.

Yesterday, the panel on global practices in promoting gender equality in the water sector emphasized the importance of an “ecosystem of policies” – an enabling environment, strong institutions, targeted programmes and special measures, human resource capacity-building, functioning systems and sectoral policies, including on energy. Action must be taken at the global, regional, national level and all actors must be involved. Women’s agency can be built through supporting women’s organizations, self-help groups and women’s cooperatives. This is a message not only to governments, but also to development partners and donors so that they prioritize it in their aid allocations.

It is crucial to address water security and their gender dimensions in national development plans, poverty reduction strategies, agricultural and rural development policies, and other development frameworks. Equitable water security needs to be a public policy priority. We need to catalyze alliance, knowledge sharing, commitment, innovations, actions and financing to address the nexus between food security and water from a gender perspective.

Women and girls are thirsty for available, accessible and affordable clean and safe water. We can no longer ruin their potential to become inspiring leaders, successful entrepreneurs or healthy mothers due to their heavy burden of fetching water.

While governments must prioritize women and girls in their national policies, the international community must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment in the new development agenda. Development can neither be sustainable nor inclusive if it does not free women and girls from carrying heavy water buckets every day.

As we move towards the 2013 international year for water cooperation, we need to catalyze alliance, knowledge sharing, commitment, innovations, actions and financing to address issues related to affordability, accessibility and availability of safe and sufficient water for all at all levels. UN Women will be a strong advocate for leveraging women’s voice and influence in water governance.

In conclusion, I would like to quote from the 2006 Human Development Report on water: “Throughout history water has confronted humanity with some of its greatest challenges.

Water is a source of life and a natural resource that sustains our environments and supports livelihoods – but it is also a source of risk and vulnerability. In the early 21st Century, prospects for human development are threatened by a deepening global water crisis. Debunking the myth that the crisis is the result of scarcity, this report argues that poverty, power and inequality are at the heart of the problem.”

And that is why gender equality and women’s empowerment must be the part of any blue revolution and any ‘second-generation’ green revolution that we are seeking to launch.

Thank you.


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Joint Statement: End water and sanitation inequalities in the future development agenda


The Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations, UNICEF, UN Women, WaterAid and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. New York, 21 February 2013.

[ Check against delivery]

Today, the Government of Finland, UNICEF, UN Women, WaterAid and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation call on the international community to place equality, human rights and sustainability as the foundation of the post-2015 development priorities.

The Millennium Development Goals have brought much needed attention to neglected issues, such as open defecation, maternal and child mortality, gender equality, and the need for sustainable access to water. The international community has learned from this process and must now aim higher.

On the eve of the consultations on the post-2015 development agenda, we believe that the world must achieve and build on the MDGs, but must also craft even more ambitious goals. The goals must create incentives for change – a change that will reach every single woman, man, boy and girl.

The future development agenda must aim at tackling the most persistent of all challenges: inequalities in access to essential services to realise people’s rights. Crucially, among these essential services, it must aim for every person to have equal access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Special attention should be given to women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by the lack of these services.

Progress must mean progress for all. We must have a world that is committed to ending the unnecessary suffering of billions of people who continue to live without sanitation or safe drinking water. We must have a world that recognizes and responds to the millions and millions who for too long have remained hidden within aggregate statistics that mask the reality of life without safe drinking-water and sanitation: children, women, people with disabilities and those living in remote areas and urban slums.

The post-2015 agenda must not move forward without clear objectives towards the elimination of discrimination and inequalities in access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

We urge the governments of the world to aim to deliver on this promise so that all people everywhere will have the future they deserve.


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