What better time is there to draw attention to and also inspire action in the water and sanitation sectors, than today? It’s World Water Day and the theme for this year’s celebration is 'Water and Sustainable Development'.
The day has come a long way since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March as the first World Water Day. In honor of this day, I celebrate the lives of grassroots women, as majority of them still lack access to safe water and sanitation.
Water is so close to their hearts, as the onus of collecting and managing water at the domestic front rests on their already overburdened shoulders. According to a United Nations Water statistics, “64% of households rely on women to get the family's water when there's no source in the home”.
Well the story is not any different for girls! “In many developing countries, women and girls walk on average over 3.5 miles each day to fetch water. Women often spend more than 15 hours per week gathering water” states a similar report.
I have never ceased to wonder why grassroots women are still denied of opportunities that will help them lead a much desired change in the water and sanitation sectors. A visit to Damishi, a community within the suburbs of Kaduna metropolis, did not leave me in doubt that women face so many challenges when it comes to accessing safe water and sanitation.
Women and girls of different ages surfaced from the nooks and cranny of the community to collect water in turns. For the more than one hour that I hung around the only functioning borehole in the community, not a single man surfaced to collect water from the point.
Near by, however, a group of young men were observably seated under a large leafy tree. They were chatting away, the whole time.
While women and girls spend long hours searching for and or collecting water, they have no say about where water points can best be located in their communities. Nobody cares to ask them about their water and sanitation needs; and preferred solutions.
The cost of leaving women out at all levels of decision-making within the water and sanitation sectors is quite enormous. Poverty, low self esteem and trauma have become the lot of many.
What needs to change for water safety and security to become a reality for women? As I reflect over this question and keep my ears close to the ground for answers, I can confidently say that a very important way forward would be to start recognizing women’s roles and their needs.
It's time to support women's leadership in the drive for sustainability in the water and sanitation sectors. Acess to safe water and adequate sanitation is a human and women's rights issue, and must be treated as such.
Today I celebrate water because water is life; and women are the custodians of that life. Happy World Water Day!