Friday, September 21, 2007

Philanthropist Brings Hope, Safe Water To Women Around the World

Philanthropist Brings Hope, Safe Water To Women Around The World

September 20, 2007 - The afternoon heat in a rural India village of the Tamil Nadu region is stifling as the members of the women’s self-help group gather for their meeting. What unites them today is the defining need of their lives: water. Working together, they have secured an accessible, safe water source in their community. A woman dressed in a brightly colored sari stands up. Prior to the new water source, she says, each month the contaminated water made at least one of her four children sick and she would have to walk seven miles to the nearest clinic. Since the new water source was installed, she states proudly, she hasn’t needed to take her children for medical attention.

After relating this story, philanthropist Wynnette LaBrosse, founder of Agora Foundation, explained that it’s the power of safe water to transform the health and lives of women and girls like these that inspired her to enter the water and sanitation sector. “When I learned about the plight of women and girls in regard to lack of water and sanitation, I clearly saw that water is at the heart of almost every key women’s issue,” says LaBrosse. “I wanted to make a difference at this most essential level.”

With ready access to safe water, women and girls will no longer have to spend long hours walking to distant, often polluted water sources, nor will they have to care for children sick with water-related diseases. Instead, women can engage in income-generating activity and girls can go to school. Ms. LaBrosse sums it up concisely: “Water gives women their lives back; it gives girls a potential for creating their lives through education.”

In 2004, Agora Foundation provided $1 million to help launch WaterPartners’ WaterCredit Initiative, a unique program providing access to credit financing for the world’s poor so they can build and sustain their own water and sanitation systems.

“With WaterCredit, people gain a new sense of control over their lives,” says LaBrosse. “When visiting WaterPartners projects in India, we stopped in four villages. I met a woman who took out a loan for a water connection. Because she no longer had to spend hours each day collecting water, she started sewing clothes to earn money for herself and her family. She beamed with pride and with the dignity her handiwork and the loan brought her in the eyes of others – and in her own.” These, explains LaBrosse, are the outcomes that fuel Agora’s work.

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This is a story of inspiration and hope. A story we need to see more often in this world regarding bringing safe water to people of the world, and in especially freeing women in developing and third world countries from the backbreaking and dangerous task of providing water to their families that is more often than not not fit for their consumption.

This is the crux of what makes us moral beings and to me is why we are on this Earth: To bring hope and life to those for whom those two things are in short supply but are just as much their right to have as for it is for us.

Water scarcity and working to end it is also a social and human rights issue as well as a moral issue. Women in many societies are looked upon as second class citizens and forced to do this back breaking work that is often dangerous and unhealthy bringing with it ill health, lack of education for them and their daughters, and a theft of their dignity as human beings. This is then in my view how you win hearts and minds and how you begin to repair the damage we have done socially, environmentally, morally, and spiritually to our world. Therefore, thank you to all those like Ms. LaBrosse who bring this life saving right to those in need.


Facts and Figures

2.4. billion people in the world, in other words two fifths of the world population, do not have access to adequate health.

1.1. billion people in the world, in other words one sixth of the world population, do not have access to potable water.

2.2. million people in developing countries are dying every year, most of them children, from diseases linked to the lack of access to clean drinking water, inadequate health and poor hygiene.

6000 boys and girls die everyday from diseases linked to the lack of access to clean drinking water, inadequate health and poor hygiene.

The average distance a woman in Africa and Asia walks to collect water is 6 km.

The weight of water that women in Asia and Africa carry on their heads is equivalent to the baggage weight allowed by airlines (20 kg).

In developing countries one person uses an average of 10 liters of water per day. In the United Kingdom, one person uses an average of 135 liters of water everyday.

When you flush the toilet, you are using the same water amount that one person in the Third World uses all day to wash, clean, cook and drink.

In the last ten years, diarrhea has killed more girls and boys than all people who have died since World War II.

In China, Indonesia, and India, the people dying from diarrhea are double to those dying from HIV/AIDS.

The population of Nairobi, Kenya, pays five times more for one liter of water than does a North American citizen.

The Guatemalan a hand-washing initiative reduced 322,000 deaths from diarrhea in 1998.

1.5. billion people in the world are suffering from parasite infections due to solid waste in the environment, which could be controlled with hygiene, water and sanitation. These infections can cause malnutrition, anemia and delayed growth.

In China, Mexico and Vietnam, communities are practicing ecological healthiness.



Global Water Partnership, Understanding the Causes of Water Problems

Marcelina White, ¿Cómo afectará el ALCA a la mujer? (“How Will FTAA Affect Women?”), Women's EDGE

UNIFEM, Mujer, Medio Ambiente, Agua: Reflexiones sobre la promoción y protección del derecho de las mujeres al agua (“Women, Environment, Water: Reflections on the Promotion and Protection of Women’s Right to Water”), 24 de marzo del 2003

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, WASH Facts and Figures

WEDO, Conexiones No Escritas: Diferencias de Género en Cuanto al Uso y Manejo del Agua ("Unwritten Connections: Gender Differences Regarding the Use and Management of Water”)

World Water Development Report, El acceso al Agua como Derecho Humano (“Access to Water as a Human Right”)

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