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The Politics of Women's Health

A Gender Perspective on Water Resources and Sanitation

Access to clean water and basic sanitation is not a given for much of the world’s population. At the end of 2004, approximately 1.1 billion people lacked access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion - 40% of the world’s population – lacked access to basic sanitation services. Over 200,000 people in developing countries die from preventable water-borne diseases every month.

In most cultures, women are primarily responsible for the use and management of water in the household, yet they usually have little control over the distribution practices or the design and location of water facilities. Women and girls often must walk many hours every day to get water.  According to Marcia Brewster, Senior Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development,  “Gender considerations are at the heart of providing, managing and conserving our finite water resources and safeguarding health through proper sanitation and hygiene.”

To find out more about the ways water resources are a feminist issue, we've posted Women’s Access to Water: A Security Issue, a paper presented by Marcia Brewster at the November 2005 MIT conference “The Future of Water.” We’ve also posted a speech on the issue by Magano Ickua, an intern with the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development who was raised in rural Northern Namibia.

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