“Women are more vulnerable because they have to work with water, they have to cope with the fact that there is no sanitation and the consequences of this lack of sanitation.” This year we want to celebrate International Women’s Day by sharing the expert knowledge of the women involved in our organization. We interviewed Mariet Verhoef-Cohen from our Board and Prof. Martha Davis, Chair of our Expert Committee to learn more about the ways in which women and girls need to be protected when it comes to water and sanitation.
As we work towards SDG6, it is important that we take action and include SD5, on gender equality, in our agenda. Mariet highlighted for us the reasons why, in the context of water, women and girls tend to be more vulnerable when trying to access water and sanitation facilities. As president of the Women for Water Partnership, she has seen how exposed they are, and considers that correct measures need to be taken to guarantee their safety. She insists that one of the main problems that women face is that they are not taken seriously. Getting women involved throughout the process of developing projects will guarantee that projects learn from women to women and their communities. The benefits of their involvement are many, but it will inevitably result in the protection of their human rights.
While Mariet explored the organizational and policy changes that need to happen, Martha Davis, a professor of law from Northeastern University, shared her expertise on the legislative gaps that are failing to fully protect women and girls in the water sector.
There are different mechanisms in place that help countries move forward with the issues, the SDGs for example, or the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). While having these mechanisms in place is essential, there are actions that need to come from the communities themselves in order to fully dismantle some of the issues. For example, Martha insisted on the importance of normalizing the topic of menstrual hygiene.
What are we missing? What can we do to help guarantee these rights?
From a political, and organizational perspective, Mariet highlights sensible steps that can be taken to work towards gender equality: Education, vocational training, data collection (disaggregated by sex and age), gender budgeting, empowerment of women to join the decision-making processes, and the inclusion of women throughout all stages of the project.
Here are some of the highlights from the interview with both of our esteemed experts: