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        Sunday, March 22, 2009
        Water day - "we're all in the same boat!" Are we now?
        Today is Water Day. I haven't blogged on the subject since 2006 and today I had a comment from Waterman under my 06 post "Happy Water Day 2009!!!" I get the message, Waterman, and I'm feeling the pressure to post something now.

        In '06, the theme was Water and Cutlture. Since then we had Water Scarcity (2007) and Sanitary (2008) as the main focus. This year's theme for Water Day is "waters that cross borders and link us together". The fancy slogan on the official website, Whether we live upstream or downstream, we are all in the same boat."

        Are we really?

        My stance (since my last water day blog in '06) still remains and my questions are still not answered. Here is what I said back then and you be the judge if anything (except the themes) has changed.

        March 22nd is World Water Day. This year’s theme for the 13th international Water Day observance is Water and Culture. UNESCO sounds upbeat about this because

        The theme 'Water and Culture' of WWD 2006 draws attention to the fact that there are as many ways of viewing, using, and celebrating water as there are cultural traditions across the world. Sacred, water is at the heart of many religions and is used in different rites and ceremonies. Fascinating and ephemeral, water has been represented in art for centuries - in music, painting, writing, cinema - and it is an essential factor in many scientific endeavours as well.

        This is all too well to make water sacred for a day and all that, but it is unfortunate that the most important world wide water culture is totally overlooked - the culture of fetching water. This is an unfortunate waste of opportunities to acknowledge the laborious and time consuming task that millions of women and girls are burdened with. From South Africa to Indonesia, it is a woman’s or a girl’s job to fetch water. Fetching water is one of the main reasons why girls cannot attend schools regularly. It is one of the reasons why a woman’s daily working hour somewhere in Africa is as long as 17 hours because she has to walk up to three hours a day to fetch water. http:James Workman tells us that

        …fetching water is not something men do unless they are alone.” At which point the man has daily incentives to pay a lobola to purchase his daughter as his lover, wife, mother of his children and, of course, as his cook and water fetcher which is included in that bride price of up to ten cows (which chug 50 liters a day and compete with the women for water access).

        Regrettably, such World Days come and go without really addressing some fundamental issues of the forgotten children of society. Global conferences also come and go with some position paper which really does not mean much. Big shots fly around the globe to participate in such events while the problems in the field remain unchallenged.

        In 2002, for example, there was a conference on water and sustainable development in Africa – regional stakeholder’s conference on priority setting. Although there were ‘gender ambassadors’ representing two African countries in this conference in Accra, Ghana, the meeting did not consider water and gender issues important enough for sustainable development to give it a time slot in the main program. So what is a sustainable water program without gender issues?

        Gender and Water Alliance was talking about “…a unified African voice and position on water based on a consensus of water ‘stakeholders’” in that meeting. I will bet anything that the millions of women who are too busy fetching water to organize and have their ‘consensus’ on water be heard are not included in the ‘stakeholders’ list. Then, who are the stakeholders? According to Gender and Water Alliance, they are “…under the guidance of the African Development Bank, representatives from more than 20 regional and international organizations dealing with water in Africa…. What a waste!
        The Water Day was an initiative that grew out of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. It would be great if a new initiative grows out of the 2006 Water Day – World Toilet Day. If observing water day is not going to help women and girls in poor nations, at least start a new initiative that would. World Toilet Day.

        The other reason for poor school attendance by girls is lack of toilets in schools. Especially for girls in their puberty, it is particularly challenging to go to a toilet-less school while they are menstruating. It is definitely not sexy for donor organizations to brag about building toilets instead of installing water pumps for example, but according to BBC’s calculation, “investments in sanitation can bring a 14-fold return.” This is not only for girls, but in general because “443 million schooldays are lost each year from diarrhoeal disease.”

        It is sad that every time there is a global event such as the World Water Day, it is mostly men in suits who run the show and make the decisions. It would be wonderful to invite a woman from each poor continent to tell her real story, and ask the participants of the meeting ‘What the hell do you know about water problems and efficient use?”

        Thanks for the subtle nudge, Waterman!!!
        posted by Fikirte @ 2:31 PM   Digg!
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