Taboos, Sanitation, and Women’s Rights

The meeting convened on the impact of sanitation and water supply to the empowerment of women. Sanitation, in toilets or menstrual hygiene management, has been defined by the General Assembly as an essential human right. Evidenced through the creation of SDG 6, achieving gender equality through WASH has become a priority.

H.E. Ms. Lamilla stated that 2.5 billion people still lack suitable spaces to take care of their personal hygiene. According to the WSSCC, one billion people still resort to open defecation. H.E. contended that adequate sanitation is the minimum standard for a life of dignity. Access to water supply is also paramount.  According to WHO recommendations, an individual should intake a minimum of 5 liters of water/day, accessible to them within 1 km from home. In developing countries, women are oftentimes responsible for collecting water. When water access is far from home, women need to walk long distances to collect it. Consequently, this takes time away from their education and renders them prone to exhaustion and sexual abuse.  It is the obligation of the state to ensure public access to water; otherwise it is the poor who will suffer the most.

Panelists further discussed the importance of breaking social taboos around menstrual hygiene. As Ms. Agrawal noted, “The thing that we cannot speak of, is the thing that creates all human life.” Ms. Shrestha stressed that it is crucial to determine the root cause of such taboos. In western Nepal, menstruating girls practice “chaupadi” and remain secluded in sheds for fear of spreading illness and offending the gods. Taboos are often rooted in traditional beliefs.

Ms. Fry recommended forming partnerships with men, and educating girls on menstrual hygiene management before the onset of their periods which will help them avoid early pregnancies and marriages and keep them in school.

Meeting: “Achieving Gender Equality through WASH.”

Date/Location: Friday, March 18, 2016; 10:00 AM-1:00 PM; Conference Room E

Speakers: H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative, Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN; H.E. Ms. Anne Lammila, Ambassador for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland; Ms. Inga Winkler, Independent Expert on Human Rights, WSSCC; Ms. Liesl Gerntholtz, Human Rights Watch; Ms. Miki Agrawal, THINX; Ms. Cecile Shrestha, WaterAid America; Ms. Mbarou Gassama, UN Women and South Asia: “Leave No One Behind” WSSCC/FANSA; Ms. Ramatoulaye Dieng, Senegal Ministry of the Environment; Ms. Absa Wade, Ministry of Gender, Senegal; Ms. Sarah Fry, FHI360/USAID WASH Plus

Written By: WIT Representative Emilie Broek

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Water Scarcity and Management in Critical Condition

A panel of experts provided vital information on the critical issue of water management and sustainability in today’s NGO-led briefing. Talking about water conservation, Sharon Megdal said that we should not only discuss technological solutions but we should think about ways in which individuals and smaller organizations can conserve water. The issues of persuasion and education, she said, especially the education of youth are important. Youth are an opportunity for the future, she emphasized. She also said that cooperation between states is the way forward for the water issue.

ImageMr. Lipchin explained the concept of chronic water scarcity. He said that the ability to meet basic needs for water and sanitation is below 500m3/capita/year. While noting that the Middle East is a region of water scarcity, he said that Israel, Jordan and Palestine are all below this threshold. Israel has been able to meet an increasing demand for water through desalination and treatment of waste water for agricultural use. Initially the idea of using treated waste water was thought to have an impact on crop yield due to the low quality of water. However, Mr. Lipchin said that there has been an increase in crop yield. He also highlighted a challenge that Israel and its neighbors face. Almost everything in the region in terms of water is transboundary. The Arab institute is trying to address this issue cooperatively, solving not only Israel’s problems but also of its neighbors, including Palestine and Jordan.

Mr. Siegel shed light on drip irrigation, a process invented by Israel. In drip irrigation, water is dripped on the roots and the rest of the field does not get irrigated because it is of no value. 75% of all irrigated fields in Israel use it. It improves the crop yield and addresses the issues of food security, carbon footprint, water scarcity and gender issues.

 

Meeting Title: Every Drop of Water Makes A Difference
Speakers: Joseph Hess, JNF Vice President, Government Relations; Sharon B. Megdal, PhD., Director, Water Resources Research Center, The University of Arizona; Clive Lipchin, PhD., Director, Center for Transboundary Water Management, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; Seth M. Siegel, J.D., Co-founder of Beanstalk, Sixpoint Partners and Vringo, and writer on water issues.
Date: 19 June 2014
Location: Conference Room 4 (NLB), UN Headquarters New York
Written by WIT Representative: Shan Cheema
Edited by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan