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Opinion: Safe water -- it's what women want

March 7, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 42.7%. 2 min read.

Indian women gather with utensils to collect water from a mobile tanker at a slum area in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, may 15, 2019. There is no direct supply of potable water at homes in most of the poor neighborhoods in the country and people have to depend on regulated supply of water from public taps erected on roadsides, with a single tap catering to hundreds of households. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Writing for International Women's Day, the former leaders of New Zealand and Costa Rica Helen Clark and Laura Chinchilla say the pandemic has exacerbated many gender inequalities, especially the lack of access to safe water and sanitation, suffered by billions around the world and disproportionately affecting women and girls.

While women labor at the frontlines, comprising 70% of the world's healthcare workers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), they are also leaving the workforce at a much higher rate than men, and doing over three-quarters of all unpaid care work, including the care of children.

Water and sanitation are critical pathways to transforming gender relations and can dramatically improve reproductive, maternal, adolescent and child health.

Improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is not only the right thing to do -- it's what women want.

In a survey of over 1. 2 million women and children in 114 countries, improved access to WASH was listed as the second highest demand in maternal and reproductive care.

Even in their daily lives, women and girls are the first to suffer without clean water and decent toilets, given the traditional gender roles imposed by society.

Women and girls are usually the stewards of household water and managers of household sanitation, and are most often the primary caregivers of children, the elderly and/or sick relatives.

Around the world, women and children spend 200 million hours every day collecting water, according to UNICEF.

They include the advancement of gender equality and the provision of functional, safe and clean toilet and hand washing facilities, and quality potable drinking water, with a particular focus on healthcare centers, schools and centers for refugees and internally displaced persons.

Similarly, at Sanitation and Water for All, a global partnership committed to achieving universal access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, we are calling on governments to provide women and girls with opportunities for decision-making and access to and control of resources.

According to the World Bank, 18% of the workforce in water and sanitation are women, yet they make up less than one in four managerial or engineering staff, resulting in policies and systems that aren't designed for women's needs.

We must unite to improve gender equality and human rights by giving women and girls the safety and dignity of clean water and sanitation and removing inequitable work burdens.

This International Women's Day, we must stand together to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to safe water and sanitation.

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