We Won’t Achieve Gender Equality Until We Address the Lack of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

Rhoda, 23, speaking on behalf of her community, at the Joint
Parliamentarian Committee meeting in Kasungu, Malawi. This work was
made possible with UK aid from the British people. Credit:
WaterAid/Dennis Lupenga

By Mercy Masoo
LILONGWE, Malawi, Jun 4 2019 (IPS)

Giving birth is a life changing moment for women. It can be –
when women have a safe and caring environment, positive and
empowering – a moment to find a previously untapped inner
strength.

But for too many women around the world, a lack of basic
facilities mean that their lives and those of their babies are put
at risk, risking death when they are bringing life into the
world.

My fellow Malawian Rhoda, from Kasungu used her own lifechanging
birth experience to help fight for the lives of future mothers and
babies.

She was one of the women who bravely stood up and delivered an
emotional speech at a community gathering attended by local
politicians about her experience of giving birth on a roadside
during the 25 kilometre walk to her nearest health centre.

Through co-ordinated advocacy, Rhoda and women like her
succeeded in making their voices heard and convinced their elected
representatives to dedicate resources to open a local hospital in
their area.

She is one of a growing number of women who together are
claiming their right to health and commit to challenging the status
quo. With this growing momentum, things can really change for the
better.

Rhoda said: “My experience giving birth on the way to the
hospital was the last straw that made us demand this health centre.
It was a frightening experience. We told the Member of Parliament
that we were tired of empty promises. It was time to
deliver.”

Rhoda’s experience could have so easily seen her join the
heartbreaking maternal death statistics of Malawi where, 634 women
die during or after birth for every 100 000 babies born alive. This
is nearly three times the global average of 216 maternal deaths for
every 100,000 live births.

Mercy Masoo, WaterAid Malawi Country Director at the Joint
Parliamentarian Committee meeting with the people of Kapyanga,
Kasungu, Malawi. Credit: WaterAid/Dennis Lupenga

Fortunately, both survived the traumatic, dangerous and
undignified experience but many others who also have to give birth
in unhygienic conditions are not so lucky. Even those who manage to
reach a midwife and a healthcare facility often face appalling
infection risks.

Recent UNICEF-WHO data showed that 45% of healthcare facilities
in least-developed countries (LDCs) do not have a source of clean
water on site. Without clean water, decent toilets and good
hygiene, it’s impossible for medical staff to deliver quality
care.

A lack of these necessities results in the lives of patients
being put in danger and contributes not only to the spread of
diseases but also the rise of drug-resistant infections as more
antibiotics are needed to battle illnesses that good hygiene might
have prevented.

Life is changing for many communities here in Malawi as more and
more raise their voices, share their experiences of hardship and
discrimination with those in power and demand provision of basic
needs such as accessible health centres with clean water, decent
toilets and good hygiene.

Shockingly, one in nine people around the world still don’t
have access to clean water close to home and one in three don’t
have a decent toilet of their own. It is no secret that in areas
where water is scarce it’s nearly always women and girls who face
the hardship of walking long distances to collect what little water
they can find.

A situation that makes them miss out on education and economic
opportunities, and sometimes leaves them at risk of sexual assault
and harassment. I know it’s possible for these shocking
statistics to be turned around.

We need to hear women’s voices calling for water and
sanitation in part because not having these basic rights
disproportionately impacts women and girls

Without toilets, women’s freedom and dignity is compromised.
Many spend their days worrying about where they will be able to
find a toilet, often resorting to the bush or waste ground.

That is why, this week, WaterAid is joining with over 8,000
others at the Women Deliver
conference in Vancouver. We want governments, the corporate sector
and civil society to know that the voices and lives of women and
girls matter.

We can’t and won’t achieve gender equality without
addressing the lack of access to the basic human right that is
water, sanitation and hygiene which millions of women and girls
face worldwide.

Women like Rhoda are shining examples. And it is my hope that we
will see more and more women standing in their power and advocating
for their rights, despite unspeakable difficulty. Because when
women and girls are given an active role in decision-making,
transformation happens.

The post
We Won’t Achieve Gender Equality Until We Address the Lack of
Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Mercy Masoo is Country Director, WaterAid
Malawi

The post
We Won’t Achieve Gender Equality Until We Address the Lack of
Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
We Won’t Achieve Gender Equality Until We Address the Lack of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene