Each year on March 22 we mark World Water Day. It is an opportunity to keep the urgent water issues – from lack of sanitation to transboundary water to climate change -- top of my mind for practitioners, decision makers and the global public. In the coming days we will post here updates and stories from the field, as well as links to some of our partners’ content. But, more importantly, this is an opportunity to hear from you, too.
Today marks the second annual UN World Toilet Day, an important opportunity to promote global efforts to achieve universal access to sanitation by 2030. With a focus on equality and dignity, this year, World Toilet Day aims to highlight sanitation as a global development priority, especially for women and girls who must compromise their dignity and put their safety at risk when lack of access to sanitation forces them to defecate in the open.
Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Group Senior Director for Water, and Caren Grown, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender, wrote a blog for Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of World Toilet Day. Read the blog below, which originally appeared in Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Advancing equality for women in developing countries is not only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense.
Gender equality enhances productivity, improves well-being, and renders governing bodies more representative. And yet around the world, discriminatory laws, preferences, and social norms ensure that girls and women learn less, earn less, own less, enjoy far fewer opportunities to achieve their potential, and suffer disproportionately in times of scarcity or shock.
Pakistan’s population of nearly 181 million is growing at 2% per year; this population explosion has resulted in the country meeting the international definition of water stress—water availability in Pakistan has plummeted from about 5,000 cubic meters per capita in the early 1950s to less than 1,100 m3 per capita in 2011.
This ominous, mounting water paucity impairs the lives of Pakistan’s rural women, who bear the arduous responsibility of collecting and providing water for their households. The absence of a safe water supply at or near their homes—and the resulting need to walk up to 4 km or more to get water each day—has aggravated the burden of women’s duties in many ways, making them vulnerable in terms of both their health and personal safety.
Rural women are the worst victims of water scarcity; however, in some communities, evidence indicates that women are emerging as a “herald of change.”
The Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI) in Kenya has been selected as a second place winner of the United Nations Public Service Award (UNPSA) in recognition of its work to promote gender responsive public service delivery with the following motivation:
”Your institution’s outstanding achievement has demonstrated excellence in serving the public interest and I am confident it has made a significant contribution to the improvement of public administration in your country. Indeed, it will serve as an inspiration and encouragement for others working for public service.”
Gender plays a crucial role in developing countries’ ability to ensure improved water and sanitation services are delivered to all citizens. According to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development, when services fail, women and girls are disproportionately affected.
This year, the World Bank/Water and Sanitation Program’s calendar depicts water and sanitation challenges from a gender perspective to call attention to some of the social norms that result from, and reinforce poor service quality. Take a look. Images can convey a thousand words--and speak for billions of people.