In light of Women’s History Month, we wanted to take the time to explore how water conservation acts as a gender issue and how international associations, such as the United Nations, are taking action to alleviate these issues and further empower women and girls around the globe.
Water conservation is an important issue that affects people all over the world. However, it is also a gender issue, as women and girls often bear the burden of water collection in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. According to the UN, women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours each day collecting water, which is often a long and arduous task that takes them away from other activities such as education and income-generating work.
In many cultures, it is the responsibility of women and girls to collect water for their households, which can result in them walking long distances to reach the nearest water source, carrying heavy loads of water on their heads. This not only affects their physical and mental health but also their ability to contribute fully to their communities and invest necessary time into their own self-care and wellness.
Furthermore, women are often excluded from decision-making processes related to water management, which can result in policies and practices that do not take into account their specific needs and priorities. This can lead to a situation where water conservation efforts are not effective or sustainable because they do not address the root causes of water scarcity and mismanagement.
Therefore, addressing water conservation as a gender issue requires taking into account the specific needs and perspectives of women and girls, ensuring that they are included in decision-making processes related to water management, and developing solutions that empower women and girls to be agents of change in their communities.
The UN believes that improving access to ‘WASH’ (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) is a potential way forward in addressing the gendered issues related to water conservation. Improving access to safe and clean water and sanitation facilities can alleviate the burden of water collection on women and girls, as well as reduce the risk of waterborne diseases that disproportionately affect women and children.
Sanitation facilities such as toilets and hand-washing stations can also provide privacy and safety for women and girls; particularly in situations where there is a lack of access to private facilities. This is particularly important in developing countries where women and girls face risks such as gender-based violence when accessing public sanitation facilities.
In addition, the UN recognizes that ‘WASH’ interventions can also contribute to gender equality and women's empowerment. For example, involving women in the planning and implementation of ‘WASH’ programs can provide them with opportunities for leadership and decision-making, and increase their access to education and income-generating activities. This, in turn, can lead to greater gender equality and better outcomes for communities as a whole.
Therefore, the UN advocates for a gender-responsive approach to ‘WASH’ that takes into account the specific needs and perspectives of women and girls, and ensures that they are included in all stages of the planning and implementation process. This can contribute to more effective and sustainable ‘WASH’ programs that promote gender equality and women's empowerment while also addressing water conservation and other environmental concerns.
In conclusion, water conservation is a gender issue that requires a gender-responsive approach to ‘WASH’. Empowering women and girls through improved access to safe and clean water and sanitation facilities, as well as involving them in decision-making processes related to water management, can lead to better outcomes for communities as a whole. By addressing water conservation as a gender issue, we can work towards a more sustainable and equitable future.