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Water Access and 2014 World Water Day: A Gender Disparity Perspective

Women and Girls at a Water Point (Source: Greengirl)

A saying goes that if wishes were horses, beggars will ride. If I have my way, I would mark the World Water Day with various women groups drawn from a number of communities in Kaura Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State. This sincere wish however remains a fantasy in the face of renewed attacks on communities by suspected Fulani herdsmen; which has caused heightened levels of displacement, fear, distrust, and insecurity across the locality.

The attack in three villages of Ungwar Sankwai, Ungwar Gata and Chenshyi all in Kaura LGA which took place in the wee hours of March 15th, 2014 resulted in the gruesome killing of over 150 inhabitants, while so many others were injured.As is often the case in times of conflict, women and children were the worst hit. When I called Agatha S. to get an update, I felt chills run through my spine when she said "My mother in-law was killed in the mayhem!". Only three weeks ago, Agatha had traveled from Kaduna to visit her late husband's mother and his relatives. "The entire village was almost completely raised to rubble as houses, churches, domestic animals and properties of members of the community were completely destroyed in the attack" she confirms.

March 22nd 2014, is World Water Day and one thing I am certain the survivors of that fatal attack will be reflecting on and celebrating is that they are alive. At the same time, governments, organizations and may be too, individuals across the World will organize various events to mark the day. A background statement on the United Nations Water website, reads "In 2014, the UN System – working closely with its Member States and other relevant stakeholders – is collectively bringing its attention to the water-energy nexus, particularly addressing inequities, especially for the 'bottom billion' who live in slums and impoverished rural areas and survive without access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient food and energy services. It also aims to facilitate the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that bridge ministries and sectors, leading the way to energy security and sustainable water use in a green economy. Particular attention will be paid to identifying best practices that can make a water- and energy-efficient 'Green Industry' a reality.

The theme for this year's Water Day Celebration is "Water and Energy" and the streamlined Objectives include to:
- Raise awareness of the inter-linkages between water and energy
- Contribute to a policy dialogue that focuses on the broad range of issues related to the nexus of water and energy
- Demonstrate, through case studies, to decision makers in the energy sector and the water domain that integrated
approaches and solutions to water-energy issues can achieve greater economic and social impacts
- Identify policy formulation and capacity development issues in which the UN system, in particular UN-Water and UN-
Energy, can offer significant contributions
- Identify key stakeholders in the water-energy nexus and actively engaging them in further developing the water-energy
linkages
- Contribute as relevant to the post-2015 discussions in relation to the water-energy nexus.

Before I go on to express my opinion on the eye catching, attention calling and thought stirring theme and objectives, I would like to highlight the mind boggling statistics still making the rounds on water supply situation, globally. Among others are the following:
- Nearly a billion, 884 million people, majority of whom are women and children, do not have access to clean and safe
water. 37% of those people live in rural areas live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- 84% of the people who don't have access to improved water, live in rural areas, where they live principally through
subsistence agriculture
- 1 in 8 people world wide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water.
- It is estimated that 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.
- In developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.
- Almost two-thirds, 64% of households rely on women to get the family's water when there is no water source in the
home
- By investing in clean water alone, young children around the world can gain more than 413 million days of health!
- Research has shown that for every 10% increase in women's literacy, a country's whole economy can grow by up to
0.3%.
- Even if the world reaches the MDG target on safe drinking water, 672 million people will still lack access to improved
drinking-water sources in 2015. (WHO/UNICEF 2010)
- Every year 3 million people die prematurely from water-related diseases in developing countries. The majority are
women and children in rural poor areas who lack access to safe water and sanitation.
- The number of people living in water-stressed countries will increase from about 700 million today to more than 3 billion
by 2025.

These vital statistics raises a couple of nagging questions on my concerned mind, as the world celebrates the '2014 World Water Day'. Can someone tell me what time bound achievements are there to celebrate? Another question, this time around, a very lengthy one which is begging for urgent answer is- How truly committed are world leaders to ending the plight of the women and children whose overladen heads, fragile backs and frail body frames bear the brunt of, and their tired legs and weather weather beaten feet, tired hands, sun scorched skin and sickly look unveil the impact of carrying heavy containers of contaminated water over long distances, back to their homes. Then a third question, which is - Given the high level of gender disparity which exists within the global water sector, will gender equality ever become a reality?

In the light of World Water Day, I count it necessary to stress the the issue of gender disparity in Nigeria's water sector. I know too well that it will also mirror the pitiable situation in other parts of the World. Women are the ones who play the traditional role of collecting and storing water for household use and they spend significant productive hours to do so. Sadly, this vital responsibility women faithfully carry out is often undermined, overlooked, or deliberately ignored. Women's voices are also not given priority place, when it comes to decision making; as intervention programs and projects pay very little or no attention to their needs and concerns. It can therefore not be overemphasized that an endless search for safe water locks up women's productive potentials, reinforces poverty and consequently engenders gender inequality. The 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) facilitated by the Human Development Report Office recognized that "no country has achieved gender equality in human development, irrespective of the dimensions that one looks at". I am, nonetheless, sure that that this fact is not intended to undermine the possibility of achieving gender equality in development. It is therefore a welcome development that bilateral plans are underway to address inequities (inclusive of long standing gender disparities, I hope!) through the lens of the Water- Energy nexus.

I know that safe water for women is safe water for all! It is ultimately important for World Leaders to focus on and address the issues of access, security and gender in water development. While sharing her insight, Anna A. an indigene and woman leader in one of the communities under Kaura Local Government says " The issue of water still remains a major challenge in my homeland, and l pray that the Nigerian Government will put in more efforts to make sure that communities have sustainable access to safe water. Much so, the communities also have a role to play as they need safe water to stay healthy and alive. Essentially too, women in communities that depend on unsafe water sources need to be supported with information and skills that will help them improve the quality of household water, as they are the ones who mostly collect and store water for home use". She concluded by opining that "the strategic efforts of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), targeted towards addressing the challenge of water supply and safety will also go a long way".

There is urgent need to involve women in planning water programs and projects, so that their needs and problems can receive adequate attention. "Women, especially those in rural areas, face a lot challenges in accessing water and much needs to be done to alleviate their plight. However, I must acknowledge that the Kaduna State Government has started taking a number of steps in the right direction; such as encouraging community ownership and management of water projects" states Pastor Peter Kuzasuwat, a community development advocate, water specialist. For intervention programs and projects to have the desired impact, I suggest a comprehensive approach that will foster inclusion, empowerment and sustainability; vis-a-vis gender mainstreaming, community participation and ownership. There is no doubting that a strong political will and stakeholder involvement can do the magic.

Walking for Water (Source: Greengirl)
Gathering and Working for a Brighter Future (Source: Greengirl)

Comments

SSD's picture

Superb post !

Dear Greengirl,

What a brilliant and significant post, indeed ! Having worked as a social development consultant - I have a vast interest in such a theme as mentioned in your post. We must continue to ignite dialogue and also look for a platform to sustain our efforts. sometimes it is not about resources but the resourceful-ness that matters the most - which I find relevant, and you seem to also share akin thought to mine.
'Tis women like you who are the torch in lighting many paths for those who are struggling to find a way -- please continue lighting the lamps in your road - surely making a difference. And, water -- well most of her body consists of such a vital need - thus, hurrah to you for letting it flow here ! Keep penning...

Cheers,
Shaheen

Greengirl's picture

SSD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you so much for sharing your empowering thoughts with me. I have great respect for you and always welcome your invaluable feedback; and always relish your words of support. How so true that, ".....resourcefulness matters the most....". I am glad that we share similar thoughts, and I am sure that together, we will sustain the dialogue and efforts. I just could not help but borrow your words. Aha!

Happy World Water Day/Week to you!

Much respect and appreciation,
Greengirl

Keating's picture

Just Wow !!

Dear Greengirl ..

You are one huge power source ! I am so glad I came across your writing. My eyes are opened some more, once again.

THANK YOU

Love to you

Robby

Greengirl's picture

Hugs to you!

We are all learning by the day, Robby. Thanks a great deal, for making out time to read the piece and sending a feedback! I find both empowering and motivating.

Love to you too,
Greengirl

vivian's picture

well done

You have right one major problem of women in the Northern part of Nigeria. Mayhem in the North is no longer a news but it occurs almost on a weekly basis. It good to have you give voice to women in the north who are saddled with so many problems but has no one to speak for them. You presence on WP community is an advantage to Nigerian so that issues of women around the nation will be adequately capture.

Thank you for the strong voice you have put down here to speak on an issue of interest not just for you alone but also for women within your community.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Greengirl's picture

Hello Vivian

It is nice to have you reiterate the issues that have become the lot of women in Northern Nigerian and beyond. We have our voice, will and hope, and will continue to speak out and also educate and encourage others to do the same; knowing fullly well that change will surely happen when we synergise our efforts..

Thank you so much for your very kind and reassuring words.

Warmly,
Greengirl

Mkandeh's picture

Very insightful

Thanks for this piece Green girl.
You speak for millions of women all over the world particularly in rural areas. Sierra Leone faces similar challenge in both urban and rural areas.
Blessings

MS Kandeh

Greengirl's picture

Hello Kandeh

Access to safe water remains a challenge in both rural and urban communities across the world, though rural areas are the worst affected. More often than not, they ar isolated and completely excluded from development. Water safety and access are issues that are very close to the heart of women especially those in rural areas who have to work so hard to collect enough water daily, for household use.

Towards finding solutions to the prevalent and looming water crisis communities are facing, it is very expedient that interventions take what women have to say into account.

Thank you for your comment! Together we can make our world a better place for everyone. Let's keep speaking.

Hugs,
Greengirl

trucker1's picture

kudos green girl!!

I am proud of the work you are doing in your country, water is such a significant symbol, and source of nuture.
God bless your efforts, Terri Rucker USA

Greengirl's picture

Thank you!

Thank you so much Terri for your king and motivating words. It is much needed and goes a long way in strengthening my resolve to do more. Water is Life and women's role in finding and implementing solutions cannot must not be undermined.

For change to happening, we must keep speaking!

In appreciation,
Greengirl

Greengirl,
Thanks for this insightful post. As is often the case, the people who are affect most by the issues are not given seats at the table. Thank you for raising awareness, not only about the plight of millions of people who lack access to safe water, but of the fact that women's voice must be heard if we are to achieve true progress.
In peace,
Julie

Greengirl's picture

Dear Julie

Thank you so much for lending your voice to the issues raised in the piece. With increased awareness about the need for women's voices to be given a place of pride and heard at the decision making table, I am sure reason will prevail.

I am so glad that you reached out!

With heartfelt gratitude,
Greengirl

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