This year's World Water Day is under the theme – Better water, better jobs, the idea is to highlight how water can create paid and decent work while contributing to a greener economy and sustainable development - but women must not be left out of this.
Across the world, women play vital roles in water sanitation and management, as they are traditionally responsible for water supply and a hygienic home environment.
However, women often suffer from certain inequities related to the water and sanitation management decisions .
As Ghana joins the rest of the world to mark World Water Day, here are three reasons why women should not be left behind in water sanitation and management.
1. Women are more vulnerable to water-related diseases.
They are often more exposed to dirty water through their roles in carrying out domestic chores, such as cleaning toilets, preparing food, and washing clothes.
Because the provision of hygiene and sanitation are often considered women’s tasks, women participating in water management decisions will enable them to make good inputs that will promote and educate leaders in home and community-based sanitation practices.
For instance, women should be active in sustaining local water management through watershed management, water harvesting, handpump repair, pipeline maintenance and so on. Women can thus be paid to run campaigns on purification and other ways of reviving traditional sources of water.
2. Women lose a lot of time fetching water, which has a negative impact on their economic lives, as well as their personal and family life. It therefore becomes imperative for financial decisions on water management to involve women. It is said that women have generally higher loan repayment rates than men, they better manage their income and tend to invest it in better family welfare, according to NGO Women Aid. In this regard, adequate resources should be allocated to implement gender strategies in the sector. Gender responsive budgeting should also not be overlooked as it will enable women and girls also benefit from hygiene and sanitation efforts.
3. As main stakeholders for water resources, women should be involved in water infrastructure decisions, particularly in the design, location and construction of toilets and sanitation blocks.
As it stands, women are not given the required attention when constructing such facilities.
In many cultures, the only time available for women to defecate, if they don't have a latrine, is after dark. This can cause serious illness due to the discomfort caused by the long wait. What is more, several of these women might be prone to attacks during the night as they walk to fields in the community to defecate.