Two global events, two weeks apart, and both with highly relevant themes for us.
March 8, 2016 marks International Women's Day. This year the theme is "Pledge For Parity". Through a rural water, sanitation and hygiene project like ours we can easily pledge for parity to:
help women and girls achieve their ambitions, both directly in terms of giving opportunities, confidence building and encouragement to come forward, and in terms of making water and sanitation facilities accessible in a way that leaves women and girls both time and health to pursue their ambitions;
call for gender-balanced leadership, by encouraging women to be active members in the Water Users and Sanitation Committees, and to go for leadership positions in these, such as Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary;
value women's and men's contributions equally, appreciating both direct and indirect contributions to water schemes planning and implementation, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and in making activities such as celebrations, campaigns and inaugurations come true; and
create inclusive, flexible cultures, both within specific groups such as the Water Users and Sanitation Committees and within broader communities within which we work, and obviously within the project itself.
Tuesday March 22, 2016 marks the World Water Day 2016. Its theme is "Better Water, Better Jobs". Both this and the IWD 2016 themes relate to the livelihoods opportunities that have to do with water. The UN Water claims that almost half of the world's workers, 1.5 billion people, work in water related sectors. They further emphasize how practically all jobs depend on water, in some way or another. This is clearly a gender parity issue as well. Millions of women provide millions of hours of unpaid labour in carrying water every day! Millions of women also contribute millions of hours for taking care of those who get sick due to poor water and sanitation conditions. This is not only about unpaid work, but it is also time lost, time that could have been used for other works and interests, even for ambitions!
We as a rural WASH project have many ways of making better water and sanitation services come true. In my opinion it is time to broaden the scope as the basic minimum service level may not be sufficient for livelihoods purposes. It is time to promote multiple-use of water services and ecological sanitation as regular options rather than something rare to pilot. Both of these open up new livelihoods and job opportunities, again for parity since these opportunities are often linked directly with women’s daily work and daily concerns, such as food security and nutrition.
The total cost of a typical gravity flow water scheme does not radically change even if the design flow would be doubled from 45 litres/capita/day to 90 litres/capita/day, should the water source allow this. Furthermore, we need to start paying systematic attention to water source itself as discussed in the previous blog post. Water recharge structures should become a regular part of any water supply scheme, included into the scheme design and its budget. This is highly relevant when aiming at sustainable future water services, and hence, sustainable water supported livelihoods.