We can’t talk about access to clean water without acknowledging climate change and its urgent effects on rural communities in the developing world, particularly on women. Climate change is already deteriorating crop growth, making farming more and more unpredictable, and in some places, causing grave food shortages. For women in these communities, the majority traditionally live off the land and have little to no voice in the decision-making process regarding their resources, health, and frankly, their overall livelihood.
This makes zero sense. Women hold the key. In fact, women are one of the planet’s best resources when it comes to combating climate change and finding solutions. It’s no wonder Water 1st is laser-focused on this same intersection when it comes to clean water solutions.
Each day, 200 million women and girls carry the water supply that sustains their families. The Executive Director of Water 1st, Marla Smith-Nilson, sees how climate change is putting women at greater risk than ever before. Nowadays, women and girls travel longer distances to find fresh water because of frequent drought caused by rising temperatures. Not only do they suffer from chronic back pain from hauling water back and forth, it takes away time they could otherwise spend going to school or participating in an income-driven job. These lengthy journeys also expose them to dangers like kidnapping and rape. And this needs to end.
To address these problems, Water 1st is dedicated to addressing root causes by promoting gender equality. So, when it comes to implementing projects, the organization ensures women provide input on strategy and maintenance of new water systems in order to ensure long-term success for the whole community.
“Women are the first to be affected by climate change in every single country in the world,” says Yannick Glemarec of United Nations Women. When women’s voices are uplifted in the movement against climate change, we are empowered, and real-world solutions abound. The first place we see these ripple effects might just be in the water we drink.