Women and Water
"The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity, ...The human right to water entitles
everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses."
-Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Geneva, November 2002, Untied Nations document E/C 12/2002/11
After doing my research on general water issues I found that the biggest problem is sanitation. I read several documents
that addressed sanitation issues involving women and I found some results that really surprised me but made a lot of sense.
One document stated that most women had to travel a long distance in bushes and fields to have privacy when going to the bathroom
and that increases the risk to their personal safety. Women and girls are at great risk for sexual assault when they need
to find a place to defecate away from water sources or other people. I found this very interesting because I had not read
this anywhere else and it's sometimes hard to find the connection between sanitation and sexual assault. Unfortunately for
women in many countries this connection is very true and they put themselves at risk several times a day.
Another aspect of sanitation that I had not thought about was menstruation. Many young women do not have adequate sanitation
at their schools and this requires them to leave school permanently once their period starts. This is a blatant disregard
for females in the educational system. Although sanitation is a national problem in many countries this will impact an entire
culture and sustain patriarchal control over women. This reminds me of Martha Nussbaum's cross cultural capabilities approach
to help women maintain control over their lives. With both of the above stated impacts it hinders a woman's basic needs for
safety and education. Although she did not necessarily mention water as an issue I would love to see what she would have
to say about how water affects women in particular and how this basic need affects the ability to change a system of oppression?
Especially when it is affecting young women who are already leaving school at the age of menstruation. This is a multi-generational
issue that will and can impact social structure for our lifetime at least.
I am so glad I had the opportunity to research this topic and start to tie this into my developmental construct.
Examples of women changing women's lives:
Romania: Two NGO's woman's groups, Medium and Sanitas and Women in Europe for a Common Future are piloting a program to
focus on women's needs when it comes to water. Nearly 7 million people get their water from wells that are highly contaminated
and spread illnesses especially to newborns and young children. The project focused on the village of Garl Mare where all
78 wells were contaminated. The woman's organization started by doing an education program to show that just because water
is clear does not mean it is clean. Then the organization started to filter the water. They built freestanding hand washing
stations in schools and local community spaces. Then they started to educate families about compost toilets and how easy
they are to use and help secure fecal and urine from the water supply.
Ukraine: Here water is limited and unequally distributed. In rural areas most of the population use wells that are contaminated
by pollution. This forces poor women to buy overpriced and often still dangerous bottled water from the government. In 1997
a women's group called MAMA-86 was formed by a group of mothers and now in 2006 is a environmental NGO that focuses on helping
women find clean water. They initiated many programs to help women through out the country.