As we approach the end of World Water Week 2012 I thought it would be apt to write a little piece that briefly touches upon the roles that women play in relation to water access and the problems that these women face on a daily basis whilst trying to attain one of the most vital and key resources to sustain their families, livelihoods and very existence.
Today, despite Millennium Development Goal targets of drinking water access having been met nearly five years early, currently over 800 million people live without safe and constant and immediate access to potable water. The majority of these people reside in regions that are experiencing severe water stress that will only be exacerbated in years to come with the increasingly apparent effects of climate change, an increased demand for vital resources and a booming global population. So what is the link between women and water?
Despite this gender disparity, women are, in the majority of instances, left out of key decision-making processes regarding water resources management, which is evident on both local and national levels. This is something that needs to change with women and young girls being part of the solution to understanding and formulating better water management policies and sanitation regulation. Women and children must not be discarded or forgotten if we are to seek advances and enhance standards which cover a multitude of areas ranging from education, health, basic sanitation, as well as hunger and poverty alleviation. As it is the women who are the individuals so often given the responsibility for the collection and distribution of water who better to decide its management? Women need to play a key role in making vital decisions such as where a water collection point should be placed or how many people will need it in the immediate vicinity as they are the ones who use it day in and day out.
Water is a major concern for women and girls in the developing world and is set to pose only more problems in the near and coming future.The global water demand from 2000 to 2050 is predicted to increase by 55% whilst the quality and quantity of fresh groundwater declines rapidly. This is going to put an unprecedented amount of pressure on the most densely populated areas of developing nations, where progress on water access and sanitation remain the slowest and where women and children account for the poorest of the poor.
Now is the time to start including women and young girls in water regulation, access and sanitation policies - they are at the forefront of this issue and have been neglected in decision-making for far too long. If water poverty is to be alleviated and the gender disparity addressed, then women must be consulted and their opinions and voices heard.
 http://www.unicef.org/media/media_61922.html, http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/ourwork/environmentandenergy/focus_areas/water_and_ocean_governance.html http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2012/03/21/women-and-water-security/
 “Although the centrality of women in ensuring the health of the family is widely acknowledged, little research addresses the speciﬁc, and negative, health aspects associated with collecting water. Long-term back injuries, micronutrient deﬁciencies due to high caloric expenditure during food scarcity periods, or negative impacts on the health status of young children are mentioned rarely and often only as a secondary adverse effect. The water fetchers are almost secondary to the water itself.” http://www.womenforwater.org/docs/Paper_water_fetching.pdf
 “Women’s lack of political representation in many countries in the developing world may be a major obstacle to bringing water infrastructure to the forefront of public expenditure” http://www.womenforwater.org/docs/Paper_water_fetching.pdf
 “Community action and social mobilization around the provision of basic social services such as water can be an effective ‘entry point’ for promoting women’s empowerment. http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/environment-energy/water_governance/factsheet-water-governance-the-gender-dimension/