Archive for the ‘Water’ Category
Latrice Davis of Women’s News reports that even though there are efforts to get clean, safe drinking water to the women who need it most, it is unlikely any of the programs working toward that goal will have much of an impact.
Here’s the full story:
Improving water quality and access can help lower maternal mortality rates, say advocates. Now a new fellowship program is being launched to explore various solutions to the maternal health problem in the world’s poorest nations.
(WOMENSENEWS)–Knowledge has long been cited as the tool most needed to lower maternal mortality rates, but Global Water, a volunteer organization based in Oxnard, Calif., says what women in developing countries also need to combat this problem is water.
“Not having the proper amount of water on a daily basis puts stress on the body, which affects a woman’s life span,” said Ted Kuepper, the organization’s executive director, in a telephone interview. “It also affects their ability to further their education and break out of poverty.”
To help disrupt this cycle, the New York-based international reproductive health organization EngenderHealth is launching a fellowship program with Ashoka, an organization of social entrepreneurs with headquarters in Arlington, Va., to focus on improving maternal health in the world’s poorest nations. The initiative will concentrate on parts of the world with the highest maternal and child mortality rates, says Tim Thomas, senior advisor of the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth.
“The rates are highest in Africa and South Asia,” he said in a telephone interview, but added that “we’re not committing to any particular countries at this point.”
That’s because EngenderHealth and Ashoka–who plan to recruit 32 candidates through its Changemakers online competition–are seeking proposals that focus on applicants’ areas of interest. Those selected for the program will spend nine months working on a tangible solution to a specific maternal health challenge, starting in September 2010.
Water Use Soars
Water use has grown at more than twice the rate of the world’s population over the past century, mostly for agricultural purposes, according to the 2009 United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report. This has left 884 million people at risk for–or already facing–a water shortage. The situation poses a huge threat to maternal health, but Thomas said it’s not the only contributing factor.
“There’s a panoply of factors that contribute to maternal mortality–everything from (the drug) misoprostol not being available to treat postpartum hemorrhage to the insufficient distribution of magnesium sulfate for preeclampsia in rural clinics,” he said. “This is where research is needed to coalesce and bring consensus, and that’s one of the jobs of the task force.”
Grace Lusiola, director of the EngenderHealth office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, works in conjunction with the government on strategies like the One Plan, a federal campaign unveiled in April 2008 to reduce maternal and child deaths. The campaign’s contributions to policy development include providing post-abortion care.
“Unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal death in Tanzania,” Lusiola said in an e-mail interview. “We’re increasing the number of facilities at the community level where women who have had unsafe abortions can go for medical care. Being able to get emergency care locally and not having to travel (long distances) saves lives.”
Another way to improve maternal health is through building latrines and hand-washing stations. Global Water assembles such facilities for elementary schools in rural areas, working with the Peace Corps to promote good hygiene and halt the spread of waterborne illnesses such as cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis and typhoid fever. On one visit to a village in Guatemala, Kuepper said, volunteers taught children about hygiene–despite lacking the basic tools.
“Those schools didn’t have any water, so they had the students pretend to wash their hands and brush their teeth,” he said. “It was an amazing sight.”
Still, good hygience practices are not common in many countries. A 2009 study published in the journal Health Education Research found that only 29 percent of 802 women surveyed in Kenya washed their hands with soap after using the bathroom, often due to lack of time and energy. (Washing one’s hands with just water is the norm throughout the country.)
“Key motivations for hand washing were disgust, nurture, comfort and affiliation,” wrote lead author Valerie Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Fear of disease generally did not motivate hand washing,” as 43 percent of the women polled felt that diarrhea “is a normal part of growing up.”
Contaminated water is also commonplace in developing countries. The World Health Organization, or WHO, and the United Nations Children’s Fund issued a report in 2004 that found the definition of “safe water” varied from region to region. WHO has issued guidelines for maintaining water quality around the world since 1982, but leaves it up to each country to implement their own standards. Such inconsistency is why Global Water bypasses the government when it comes to installing water treatment systems.
“We’re trying to fill a void that’s been created by the leaders of the developing world themselves,” Kuepper said. “There’s a real lack of concern among these leaders to take care of their own people.”
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that at the global level maternal mortality rates fell by less than one percent annually between 1990 and 2005–far below the 5.5 percent annual improvement needed to reach the world body’s 2015 target. Of the eight Millennium Development Goals–U.N. benchmarks to reduce poverty and improve health–originally set in 2000, it’s the area that has seen the least amount of progress.
“Women’s health and empowerment is at the heart of all the development goals. I don’t think any of them can be achieved unless we scale up a full range of reproductive health services and policies for women in every part of the world,” Thomas said. “There’s such great momentum around maternal health because the crux of women’s reproductive health and rights is the saving of lives of women who are dying needlessly because of pregnancy or childbirth.”
Improving women’s access to clean water is directly linked to increasing their life expectancy. For example, a 2006 WHO survey found that women in countries such as Tanzania were only expected to live to the age of 51; one of the causes of death was consuming excessive levels of fluoride found in contaminated water. Those who do survive in countries with unsafe water have to deal with side effects like stiff joints.
“The body acclimates to some degree to accommodate the level of contamination in the water,” Kuepper said. But he pointed out that such adaptation only applies to microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, not minerals like fluoride and arsenic. Since water contamination remains an environmental hazard to women and children in the world’s poorest nations, he doesn’t envision the development goals being fulfilled within the next six years.
“I don’t see anything on the horizon to fix the problem. There’s not enough funding efficiently being spent in water-short areas of the world,” he said.
A gem from the feministing community:
By Annushay Hossain
I grew up knowing my country was drowning. My childhood memories are full of flashing images of annual monsoon rains making rivers out of our roads, lakes out of our rice paddy fields, washing away farmers’ harvests, pushing the rural population into our already overpopulated capital city. Of course the yearly floods alternated with even greater natural disasters- cyclones, tornadoes, you name it growing up I saw it. The rumor in the playground was that in twenty years Bangladesh would be completely underwater.
Today that statement is no longer a rumor, but very much a reality. According to the UK ‘s Guardian publication, Bangladesh makes up not even 10% of the land mass of South Asia , but over 90% of the region’s water passes through it. Experts state that Bangladesh ‘s shifting and intensifying weather patterns are making a bad situation worse. The case of Bangladesh shows us that climate change is real, and is already impacting populations and ecosystems around the world.
But the case of Bangladesh shows us something more: That it’s the world’s poor who will feel the impact of this change the hardest. And who exactly are the poor? Women, who make up approximately 65% of the world’s poorest populations.
Because of the traditional domestic responsibilities which fall on women and girls, experts state that climate change is having a disproportionate affect them. Women are the primary caretakers of families, primary managers of everything from food production to water management in their households. As UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) puts it, women are the ones who cook, clean, and farm for their families, in addition to providing health care and hygiene. Women are not only on the “frontlines” of climate change, but their work and relationship with the environment is so intimate that their experience with it changing is often just as personal.
Let’s look at the issue of water for example, a natural resource especially sensitive to climate change, and one that traditionally women are the managers of in their households. According to UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), women and girls on average travel 10-15 kilometers, spending up to 8 hours a day gathering water for their families. Droughts caused by climate change are shrinking up and eliminating existing water supplies, making the distance to walk even longer. Because of the distances women and girls have to walk to fetch water for their families, millions of girls around the world are unable to go to school. Imagine that. The average person would never make the connection between accessing water and girls’ education. Yet it exists.
As the gendered impact of climate change becomes increasingly palpable, my question is- where are the feminist voices? Why are more women’s rights advocates and activists not picking up and rallying around this issue vigorously? Everyday you see articles in the news, but where is the real action? More importantly, where is the outrage? Just yesterday I read an article in the LA Times talking about how the newest kind of refugee is not from war, but from of climate change. They are called “climate refugees” and the LA Times states that almost 10million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes for “reasons ranging from rising (or falling) sea levels, lack of rain, and desertification.”
Back home in Bangladesh , the list of innovative ideas to combat and more importantly, adapt to climate change is endless. International aid organizations are working with local NGOs to build “floating villages,” clinics on boats, and help women educate their communities about securing flood and cyclone shelters.
But there has to be more. Women may be in the frontlines of climate change, but they are not only its victims. Their personal and intimate experience of the harsh impacts of climate change means that within them lies very real solutions to combat it. If the voices from the women’s rights movement don’t pick up this issue, loudly, clearly and unanimously, climate change will not only drown out countries, but the agents of change, women, with it. And that is simply not an option.
It is the responsibility of the women’s movement, both here in the US and abroad, to make the issue of our altering environment, our issue, otherwise everybody loses. Climate change is a human rights issue, but its very obvious gendered impacts make it a women’s rights issue.
Usually when I post about women and water, I am talking about third world women. But we can’t forget that there is also a water crisis going on in America. Bijoyeta Das reports for We News on the conception of the Women Water Walkers in 2003 and also the global day of climate activism where over 4.400 events in 172 countries have been planned for Oct. 24 to draw attention to the need to cut greenhouse emissions.
(WOMENSENEWS)–Their lips wind-burned, feet blistered, shoes worn out. They keep walking.Sometimes they walk as much as 54 miles in a single day, taking turns carrying eight liters of water in a copper pail and an eagle staff, a six-feet long carved staff with eagle feathers attached, which serves as a flag for Native Americans. At night, they rest in the houses of their supporters or in lodging arranged by a casino. Some nights they camp out in the bitter cold.
For six springs, Mother Earth Water Walkers have walked nearly a month to circle one of the Great Lakes in North America.
Since 2003, they have walked the shorelines of Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and twice around Lake Michigan.
This year they walked up one coast of the St. Lawrence River, starting at Kingston, Ontario, on April 13 and down the other. They ended on May 1 at Riviere-la-Madeleine, Quebec.
Two Anishinawbe women lead the annual event, which started as a Women Water Walk on a cold wet Easter day in 2003 in Odanah, Wisc.
Along the way, many Native American men and women join them.
The goal is to raise awareness that water is essential and sacred.
Call to Lower Greenhouse Emissions
The United Nations Climate Change Conference is scheduled for December in Copenhagen, Denmark. World leaders are expected to clinch a comprehensive global treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Tomorrow, Oct. 24, over 4,400 events–called climate actions–are being planned in 172 countries to stir public awareness and urge leaders to commit to policies that will lower global levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million. That’s the level that James Hansen, a scientist with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has identified as needed to sustain human civilization. The current level, according to a dynamically updating monitor on 350.org, the grassroots group organizing Saturday’s events, is 387.
Along with building the buzz online and through posters, the campaign uses off-the-wall strategies, such as baking cookies at 350 degrees F and stringing up 350 socks and pieces of underwear.
The group’s leaders include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against apartheid; Liz Thompson, an environmental leader for small island developing states, such as Barbados; and Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist for agricultural practices reform and adherent to the alter-globalization movement. The lead organizer is Bill McKibben, a Vermont writer who authored the first book about the dangers of climate change 20 years ago.
But the Water Walkers are not part of this or any media blitz. You won’t find them on Twitter or Facebook.
“We walk the talk,” said Josephine Mandamin, 67, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and founder of the Mother Earth Water Walks, in a phone interview this week. “We don’t have to be on the media and television. You just walk with the water and the people get the message.”
Great Lakes Landscape Changed
The human population of the Great Lakes basin is approximately 42 million, according to a report “State of the Great Lakes,” which was prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and Environment Canada. Increases in population and urbanization have changed the landscape of the Great Lakes, which in turn may result in an increase in erosion, sediment transport and degradation of water quality in the tributaries and the near-shore areas. Between 1992 and 2001, 2.5 percent (2 million acres) of the Great Lakes basin was subjected to change in land use, according to the 2009 report.
“Some conditions of the Great Lakes are improving while others are deteriorating,” said Phillippa Cannon, a spokesperson for the EPA. One of the current programs of the EPA’s Great Lakes National Office is to clean up contaminated sediments from the most polluted parts, she said.
But when you ask Mandamin about human-made climate change and the havoc scientists say it is wreaking, she says Mother Earth is doing what she can by “cleaning herself” in the form of fires, floods and landslides.
Mandamin described herself as a grandmother “looking after the water for the next generation for the unborn.”
“In every nation, any country, any First Nations that I have heard, women were the carriers of the water, from the wells to the house,” she said.
According to the “State of the Great Lakes” report, the climate in the Great Lakes region is shifting. Winters are shorter, annual average temperature warmer and rain and snow are heavier. The air and water temperatures are increasing, while the lake ice cover is decreasing.
Cannon said that Congress is considering the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, in which the president has proposed $475 million to address the problems in the Great Lakes. “That would certainly make a big difference towards continuing the work of cleaning up the Great Lakes,” she said.
Inspiration for First Walk
The idea for the Water Walks welled up in 2002, from the Sundance Ceremony in Pipestone, Minn., where the Grand Chief E. Benton-Banaise-Bawdwayadun of the Anishinawbe reminded the women of a prophecy made about 10 years ago by an Anishinawbe elder:
“In about 30 years, if we humans continue with our negligence, an ounce of drinking water will cost the same as an ounce of gold.”
The leader also talked about how traditionally women have been the carriers of water and that it is believed that one day women would walk all of the Great Lakes.
That prompted Mandamin to initiate the first Women Water Walk.
In 2003, after a send-off ceremony and feast of moose stew, fish, wild rice and Bannok– a traditional native bread prepared by pan-frying–women from different clans came together to pace the 350 miles of the Lake Superior coastline.
For the last couple of years men have realized their duties, too, and are walking beside the women on the spring treks.
Since 2006, men hold the symbolic eagle staff to give strength during the walks; however, women continue to carry the pail of water. “There was a uniting of the minds for the water, with the water and because of the water,” Mandamin said.
Walking All Day
Gary Fourstar, one of the founders of this event, said the female-dominated group led another 10-day walk for the water, starting at the headwaters of the Tiber River in Italy and ending at the Vatican in 2007. More than 80 people, including Native American elders, participated in the walk.
The goal of the water walk is to spur people to give thanks for their water and to realize that water is alive and needs protection, said Debora Fourstar, president of the Many Horses Foundation and married to Gary Fourstar.
She said the Western world has lost respect and connection with nature.
Bijoyeta Das is a multimedia journalist based in Boston.
For more information:
Two powerful videos showing women’s relationship with the environment, from the Women News Network:
Climate change has forced The Massai – a tribe in Kajiado, Kenya – to compete with animals over the water supply. The tribe is struggling against the new seasonal weather patterns although they have been residents of the land for centuries. Their quest for water takes the men into the capital, Nairobi.
As traditional cattle herders, the Maasai have found themselves leaving their homes for months at a time in search of pastures and water for their animals. In most cases this means vulnerable women, children and the elderly are left behind to fend for themselves in the villages.
Ebby Nanzala Wamatsi who wrote the article on The Massai for the Women News Network says in some cases women walk over 10 kilometers to fetch water and still there is a chance that they will return empty handed. However, with the help of the United Nations Environment Programme, women are also taking action to change their situation.
The project is being spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Regional Land Management Unit of the World Agro-forestry Centre. The organisations are providing equipment and training for the women.
To date, over 200 tanks have been constructed under the initiative. The women are also involved in digging mini reservoirs or ‘earth-pans’ to collect run-off water from sloping land. This in turn is used for irrigation purposes to water their crop and vegetable fields.
The women of Kajiado have also begun a tree-planting project to encourage the Maasai to adopt a more settled communal way of life as arable farmers. It makes it compulsory for every household to plant at least a hundred trees.
“It’s time to determine our own destiny. I am anticipating cooler weather. We are fed up with scorching temperatures and spending entire days searching for water,” says Luise Mwoiko, chair of the Mataanobo Women’s Group.
The women’s initiative cooperates to construct water tanks from one homestead to another. And they are proud of their work, as Mwoiko makes clear. “We never bother our men to climb up the tanks and make the final touches. We do it ourselves,” says Mwoiko as she adds that the women’s husbands assist financially in the projects.
Another member, Jerusha Lasoi, said their projects will ensure that the Maasai will no longer require food aid from outside their community. Pointing to her secure reservoir of water, a milk cow and thriving business in vegetable sales, Lasoi felt confident in their future.
California has changed its laws on graywater, making it more accesible and feasible for people to use. Graywater, in case you haven’t heard the term yet, refers to the wastewater used when doing things around the house such as bathing, washing dishes or laundry. Many have set up a system that takes that water straight to the their plants, but with more lenient regulations and a lower price tag, more people can implement this sustainable practice in their home.
From the San Fransisco Chronicle:
By some estimates there are already 1.7 million graywater systems at work in California – the vast majority without permits. Nationwide, there are about 8 million, according to Art Ludwig, a Santa Barbara environmental designer and leader in the graywater field.
Ludwig believes that number will only grow as more states grapple with the reality of water shortages, the problems posed by industrial agriculture and the shift toward what he describes as a more direct connection with the land and other precious resources.
“When you’re in a city and your water comes from the Sierra or wherever, you don’t necessarily care what you’re pouring down the drain,” Ludwig said. “But when you’re doing graywater and watering your citrus tree, you care.”
Check out the testimonials from households already using the system and more pictures here
Since I posted a short rant about Angry Green Girl yesterday, I figured today it would be a good idea to show a woman and her daughter who are vlogging about urban sustainable living the right way! They are called the Garden Girls and feature Patti Moreno and her daughter and their backyard garden in Boston.
From her YouTube channel:
Working tirelessly to promote her ideas on the benefits and joys of urban gardening, Patti has also taken her message to the masses in a variety of ways. She is a contributing editor to Fine Gardenings GROW magazine, a columnist for Organic Gardening Magazine, a contributor for Farmers Almanac, and the host of their series Farmers Almanac TV. In addition, she has her own retail product line that was named Best Retail Product at both the 2008 Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago and the 2009 New England Grows Show.
The Garden Girls cover everything from how to set up a simple compost bin, to picking blueberries and making raised beds for an urban garden. Check them out on YouTube for more great videos!
The concept of Angry Green Girl, a supposedly “hot, green and shameless” blogger/vlogger is offensive to both sexes. First, she’s playing on the concept that men are fat, lazy slobs and will listen to anything if a hot girl takes her clothes off. Also, her tips aren’t even that good. Take the recent video on water she made. The first thing she does is drink the water out of a PLASTIC WATER COOLER. The video may have been a tad more affective if she went for the tap:
Besides not being green, it’s also offensive to women. On the “who we are” page, Angry Green Girl says her blond intern thought “recycling newspaper meant reading it over and over again.” Really? A blond joke? At least strive for a bit more creativity. The “News” section may be the only useful thing to look at on her website. While it does have some good information, it’s not enough to make me visit Angry Green Girl ever again.
Like most 20-somethings, I turn to John Stewart for my media breakdown and could not of been happier when he invited Robert Glennon, professor at the Universirty of Arizona, to discuss his new book Unquenchable: America’s water crisis and what to do about it.
One thing they both agreed on? Americans are lazy.
Stewart, through his joking, managed to hit a number of great points, the most poignant being that American’s are not apt to do anything to stop this crisis that involves exerting effort.
Stewart: Is this one of those situations where they are going to say to us, “the only way to save humanity is to change your behavior,” because…[those solutions have] never worked, we’re very lazy.
Glennon reasons that Americans think of water like air, infinite and limitless and that preserving this critical part of life is a lesson in valuing it.
Glennon also points out that current energy saving techniques are some of the most water-wasting practices. hmm…could it be that ethanol isn’t the solution to all our problems??
Concerns over ethanol production have been widespread. The Environmental Protection Agency had this to say’:
“…because of land use impacts, most biofuels actually cause more global warming pollution than conventional gasoline. According to the EPA’s draft rule, most corn ethanol is expected to result in more global warming pollution per gallon than regular gasoline for the next 33 years.” – via friends of the earth
I hope to post more about water issues the future, both about the crisis in America and the crisis that is already taking place in third world countries. Why? Because the collection of water in rural villages is mainly a woman’s task making water’s preservation and access a woman’s issue, feminist issue and an ecological issue.
Any google search on water conservation will give you long lists of ideas, here are a few that I found the most helpful (and that may not be as obvious as turning off the water while you brush your teeth!)
- Use a water-efficient showerhead. They’re inexpensive, easy to install, and can save you up to 750 gallons a month.
- Fix any leaks and replace old toilets – one of the biggest water-wasters!
- Organize your landscape into groups of plants by the amount of water they require.
- Use the water from cleaning out your fish tank for plants and wash your dog on the lawn instead of in the bathtub!
These and 100 more ways to conserve can be found here.