Thursday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day? It is an annually recognized date in which we salute women’s achievements in their struggle for quality and justice. It’s also a day in which we highlight the gender issues that remain unsolved and applaud initiatives created to provide those solutions. One such issue affecting women and children is a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene
Since 2009, Oikocredit has provided support to Bharathi Women Development Centre (BWDC), an organization that works to achieve sustainable development in their community by focusing specifically on the women of Tamil Nadu, India. Acknowledging that the majority of the world’s 1.3 billion absolute poor are women, the BWDC places a special emphasis on their empowerment. Of the organization’s 12,055 active borrowers, 99% are women. BWDC not only offers traditional microfinance services, but the organization has developed several social empowerment programs to combat problems that contribute to and exacerbate poverty in rural communities. BWDC participated in the “Financial Inclusion Improves Sanitation & Health” program, which is an initiative to promote the construction of toilets in neighboring communities. According to the project’s website, “[towns in the region] don’t have toilets for our usage. We do [public] defecation, but not in day time,” meaning that finding access to sanitary toilets during the day is nearly impossible. As a result, BWDC reports, “in our area the women were faced [with] health problems and spend lot of money for medical purposes.” In addition to the obvious health problems associated with public defecation, women of the community were also embarrassed. “There was one public toilet, but [it] is very far from our house and they are charging [2 rupis] for [the] urinal and [3 rupis] for [the] latrine, [w]hich is very costly for us.” As a solution, BWDC provided sanitation loans to members, who were trained to construct proper clean-flush toilets, which are now in use.
However, lack of access to clean water is merely one of many problems contributing to the more than 500,000 women who die every year in childbirth or during pregnancy. According to the WHO, these complications are a leading cause of death among women in developing countries*.
If you want to learn more about this topic, join Oikocredit USA for an International Women’s Day webinar with Dr. Kanan Patel-Coleman, an expert in maternal and child mortality.
Dr. Patel-Coleman will share an international perspective of this important issue that is so strongly linked to global poverty. Since 1995, Dr. Patel-Coleman has used her public health and environmental expertise to serve with Lifewater International, a non-profit water supply, sanitation, and hygiene training organization. She has traveled all over the world to raise awareness of health related issues that often have disproportionate adverse effects on women and children. Currently, she leads a team of health risk consultants who evaluate harmful chemical pollutants, including special considerations of mothers and children. To register for this important webinar, click this link.
*For instance, the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in Africa is 620, while in Europe it is 21. MMR is defined as: “the annual number of female deaths from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management (excluding accidental or incidental causes) during pregnancy and childbirth or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, per 100,000 live births, for a specified year.” http://apps.who.int/ghodata/?vid=240