Many women across the globe travel long distances to find water to provide for their families' basic needs. Not only are the physical demands enormous, but so are the time demands. In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend over 40 billion hours a year, combined, to collect water. According to UN Women, this is the "equivalent to a year's worth of labor by the entire workforce in France."
In a recently released WHO and UNICEF report, households without direct access to drinking water are more likely to task women and girls with the responsibility to collect it. Looking for water subsequently prevents these women from finding other jobs or receiving an education.
Participants of the CSW58 conference called "Women and Water: Multipliers of Development" highlighted the challenges faced in gaining access to clean water. They also called on Member states to take responsibility and provide solutions to the water crisis.
UN Women Deputy Executive Director Policy and Programme John Hendra stated, "At UN Women we have been looking at the nexus between water, energy, and food security, as well as the nexus between water and jobs, both of which have a very direct bearing on gender equality and women's empowerment."
Fortunately, UN Women and the International Labor Organization (ILO) are partnering to integrate women's perspectives on the water-collecting crisis. They, among others, want women to contribute to improve the water supply network.
"At UN Women, we're very pleased to see both genera equality and women's empowerment, and water and sanitation, emerging as key priority areas to be addressed in the post-2015 agenda," Mr. Hendra continued, "There's also strong support for a dedicated goal on water and sanitation. Such a goal must include gender-sensitive indicators, such as the average weekly time spent in water collection by women and men, boys and girls, and the availability of sanitation in households and schools, in order to effectively promote achievement of gender equality and women's empowerment - particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable women."