Imagine going through your day without ready access to clean water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing. Around the world, 663 million people face that challenge every day. They get their water from sources that are considered unsafe because they are vulnerable to contamination, such as rivers, streams, ponds and unprotected wells. And the task of providing water for households falls disproportionately to women and girls.
I have carried out research in India, Bolivia and Kenya on the water and sanitation challenges that women and girls confront and how these experiences influence their lives. In my field work I have seen adolescent girls, pregnant women and mothers with small children carrying water. Through interviews, I have learned of the hardships they face when carrying out this obligatory task.
An insufficient supply of safe and accessible water poses extra risks and challenges for women and girls. Without recognizing the uneven burden of water work that women bear, well-intentioned programs to bring water to places in need will continue to fail to meet their goals.
So, what is it like for women who live in places where sufficient and safe water is not readily accessible?
Water issues continue to be front and center of global health and development goals. In fact, 783 million people today do not have sustainable access to clean, safe water. While there have been notable strides in providing access to water to regions in need around the world, that need is still astronomical.
Many NGOs and companies are on the frontlines of working towards ensuring communities have access to water. One such company is GIVN.
GIVN, a certified B-Corporation based in Chicago, provides water to communities in need through its three key partners: Water.org, Water is Basic, and UNICEF’s Tap Project. For every bottle of GIVN water you buy, one person will receive a full day of water. To date, GIVN’s sales have provided 800,000 days of clean water to communities in need.
When I stepped out of the U.S. Forest Service SUV after nearly a two-hour scenic autumn drive from Taos, New Mexico to the Carson National Forest, we were standing in an expansive valley so big that huge cows below us looked like mere dots in the distance. We had finally arrived at Valle Vidal, a massive grassy meadow with vistas as far as the eye could see and elevations reaching close to 13,000 feet in Carson National Forest. Even though Valle Vidal is overwhelmingly beautiful to take in its environmental impact is being increasingly hampered by major stream and groundwater degradation that needs immediate remedying in order to protect fish and wildlife as well as to store more ground water for communities downstream.
I was in New Mexico visiting the Carson National Forest with Coca-Cola North America’s sustainability team last week to learn about their water restoration efforts in northern New Mexico as well as the company’s overarching nationwide partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and National Forest Foundation that replenished 1 billion liters of water to nature and communities reaching 60 million people in the United States. Coca-Cola also recently announced that it has successfully reached one of its principle global sustainability milestones ahead of schedule to effectively balance its water usage in its beverages and production. Coca-Cola has reached its goal five years ahead by replenishing 191.9 billion liters of water across the globe in 71 countries. In the United States, Coca-Cola North America has pledged to double the 1 billion liters of water that it has already replenished by 2018.
It’s been raining virtually nonstop since we arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday morning. There were downpours all day without any let up until the evening. I hope we get to see the sun on Tuesday. It’s the end of the monsoon season in Nepal, but I don’t think the weather quite wants to get rid of the rain yet.
Today was our very first site visit for this Nepal trip to see Coca-Cola’s rebuilding efforts after last year’s earthquake as well as their work with women in their global #5by20 program that will empower five million women by 2020 across Coca-Cola’s value chain.
Today, we focused on how Coca-Cola is helping local NGOs rebuild after the quake as well as how Coca-Cola employees joined as a team to push through the crisis they endured after two very sizeable earthquakes.
You can read about our visit to a village about an hour and a half away from Kathmandu and how a local NGO is using innovative ways to create sustainable communities.
This Sunday, March 22, is the United Nations’ World Water Day. 354 million people continue to not have access to clean, drinking water every day. This is a critical problem because dirty water causes a whole host of water-borne diseases that kill the smallest children, especially those under the age of five.
“Without access to clean water, the world’s poorest people will stay poor,” says the UN’s report on women and water. Women and children spend 140 million hours a day collecting water when those hours could be spent going to school, working, for leisure, or to take care of their families. Instead, women and girls in particular, walk for miles in some instances to get water for their entire family. In Africa and Asia, girls and children walk an average of 3.7 miles a day just to fetch water.