Women and girls: Making the connection (literally) to water and sanitation

NEW YORK, NY, Sept. 25, 2009 -- Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Member Water Advocates is building its ongoing advocacy efforts to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation for women and girls...

NEW YORK, NY, Sept. 25, 2009 -- Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Member Water Advocates is building its ongoing advocacy efforts to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation for women and girls. As a water advocacy organization, one of the main themes emphasized by the group is the impact that the lack of safe water and sanitation has on women and girls and how investing in water and sanitation programs is, in fact, an investment in women and girls.

"Water Advocates applauds President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative for addressing this vital issue through the Water and Sanitation Action Networking Session which attracted over 40 participants from the foundation and nonprofit communities. We are confident this will help catalyze more CGI commitments to provide safe drinking water and toilets to millions of girls and women," said John Oldfield, Water Advocates' Executive Vice President.

With all of the critical issues that advocates for women and girls have to consider, the most basic requirements for life and livelihoods -- water, sanitation and hygiene promotion -- are sometimes forgotten. Women and girls are marginalized, in part, because they are forced to spend their time fetching water or caring for family members who are sick from water- and sanitation-related diseases. On average in rural Africa, women spend 26% of their time collecting water, which often means walking five miles or more to the nearest water source.

This makes improving access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene one of the key investments to improve the lives of women and girls. If water and sanitation are not part of the equation, the other goals -- health, education, job training, improving agricultural production and encouraging entrepreneurship (all important investments) -- risk failure. A study in Bangladesh indicated that a single gender toilet could increase the number of girls in school by as much as 15%.

Yet time and time again getting sustainable access to water and sanitation is a glass ceiling for women and girls in the developing world and it remains a serious health risk. According to a 2007 WaterAid report: "The burden of constantly carrying heavy water containers, that weigh up to 45 lbs., on the head, hip or back, has severe health implications. In extreme cases curved spines and pelvic deformities can result, causing problems in childbirth."

Water and sanitation benefit both women and girls and their families and communities. Women with even a few years of basic education -- enabled by safe water -- have smaller, healthier families, are more likely to be able to work their way out of poverty and are more likely to send their own children, girls and boys, to school. Each additional year of female education is thought to reduce child mortality by 5-10%.

In addressing the multiple challenges facing women and girls it is critical to not forget the basics. "The message from Clinton Global Initiative participants is twofold: the global safe drinking water and sanitation problem is serious, and more importantly it is solvable today, and will have an enormous positive impact on girls and women around the world," said John Oldfield.

About Water Advocates
Water Advocates works to increase funding for safe and affordable drinking water and adequate sanitation in impoverished areas around the world. Rather than facilitating projects itself, Water Advocates works with U.S.-based government organizations, NGOs and the private sector to identify channels for each to fund specific water projects and organizations

Water Advocates is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that serves as a pro bono corporate social responsibility consultant and philanthropy advisor for those engaged in solving the global safe drinking water and sanitation crisis.

About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 100 current and former heads of state, 14 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made more than 1,400 commitments valued at $46 billion, which have already improved the lives of 200 million people in 150 countries. Commitments made at the 2008 Annual Meeting are expected to affect almost 160 million people. The CGI community also includes CGI University (CGI U), a forum to engage college students in global citizenship; and MyCommitment.org, an online portal where anybody can make their own Commitment to Action. CGI will hold its Fifth Annual Meeting September 22-25, 2009, in New York City. For more information, visit www.clintonglobalinitiative.org.

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