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Training young girls today to be water managers for tomorrow

Girls collecting water for their HH

Sisters fetching water for their family ©NEER Foundation India

<5 mins. read. Approx. 500 words.

The context:

Water security remains to be one of the top global threats and is now also a pervasive climate change issue, according to the World Bank.

Women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water daily globally. They place themselves at an increased risk of assault and become more likely to develop medical issues related to physical labor. They also pay an opportunity cost, as this time could be better spent in school or performing other productive tasks. 

Role of women and girls:

Women have long been inextricably linked to the management of water. However, while girls continue to act as water collectors in their communities, they are often overlooked as potential water resource managers. Globally, enrollments in higher education are increasing faster for women than for men. Still in regions of the world, such as the Global South, the gap in opportunities and decision-making remains significant.

The power of youth:

By observing the most recent political instability in Hong Kong, one can presume that youth do not have the wisdom to regulate themselves or provide long term stability. One needs to be also mindful that young people cause unrest and revolt, only when there is lack of opportunities, they feel wronged, and not valued or contributing enough.

The UN Youth Climate Action Summit and recent popularity of youth activists show active and increasing engagement by young people concerned with the ramifications of climate change. This willingness is also reflected within the water management community. “Those under 35 are far more attuned to non-stationary thinking and are willing to rethink fundamental aspects of their own training”, said John Matthews, co-founder of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation. “Senior people are often in a position where they have a lot more invested in their world view. To me, water and climate is one of the great challenges of our time,” said Matthews.

In conclusion:

Future generations of women will be as educated, if not more educated, than their male counterparts. At the same time, without institutional change, they will continue to bear the primary burden of water collection, while also being shut out of employment opportunities related to water resources management. Some evidence already suggests that when women formally participate in water management, they help improve the long-term sustainability of water systems. Only via a combination of efforts by grassroots  organizations such as NEER Foundation and international organizations such as Global Water Partnership, we can address serious global disparities.

Disclaimer: This blog post has been adopted from the article that appeared in the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat newletter. All the links provided in the article are from my past blog posts and other sources.

To read the original article, please click here.

To read all other articles related to climate change an gender from my blog, please click here and here.

This blog post Training young girls today to be water managers for tomorrow first appeared on theflipsideofdevelopment.wordpress.com

Celebrating the gift and power of the youth globally

Intl Youth Day-2019_ENG

<5 mins read. Approx. 470 words

The context:

Monday 12 August is International Youth Day, which raises awareness around challenges our young men and women face today. It’s a great opportunity to also make the knowledge and resources more accessible to youth, as they will play a vital role in the future of our planet and the generation to come. This year’s theme is #transformingeducation

My perspective:

I actually saw the power and gift of youth working, both personally and professionally, from my very first role in a small grassroots nonprofit in India. When given the gift of knowledge of rainwater harvesting and organic agriculture/gardening, the school kids in and around Meerut and other cities in neighboring region, were spreading the message excitingly! Then came the time for contribution in the form labor and kind for the rural projects, and again the power and will of youth was in full on display, in terms of digging the earth for reviving traditional rainwater harvesting structures and others. Some flag bearers still continue the work after all those years, running on that very power.

During my entire career in India, spanning over eight years, I saw the power and will of youth working in helping manage and run projects in small, big and mega cities in the states of Haryana, Rajashthan, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and others.

The future is promising:

Upon migrating to the US, I have been extremely fortunate to have been part of teams, organizations and projects where I saw the power and will of youth in action, whether it was in my volunteer assignment at the UNICEF HQ’s project in the youth and adolescent team (I still mange it pro-bono) or in Engineering for Change’s solution’s library, fellowships and opportunities portal and various other programs and offerings  and so on. Most recently, I saw this at work in Gravity Water’s mission, where I have the honor to be one of the board members and contribute.

In conclusion:

There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. However, more than half of all children and adolescents aged 6-14 lack basic reading and math skills, despite the fact that the majority of them are attending school. This global learning crisis threatens to severely hamper progress towards the SDGs.

It is very easy to get dismissive and frustrated by seeing the social media and online activities and lifestyle of the young people today. However, when you observe closely, you are able to see the driven and motivated youth, and the institutions recognizing their potential to make things happen. If tapped accurately and channelized in the most efficient manner, the power and gift of the youth can be one of the biggest keys to solving the world’s biggest challenges and achieving the SDGs for all.

This post Celebrating the gift and power of the youth globally appeared first on theflipsideofdevelopment.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solutions to help achieve WASH goals for every girl and women

photo of a person carrying baskets

Photo by Gin Patin on Pexels.com

Approx. 6 minutes read <600 words
The context:
Throughout my growing years in India, I was fortunate enough to have a piped supply of municipal water in my home. I was able to get a glass of water to drink whenever I wanted, take a shower, and if there was an announcement about interruption in water supply, my family made sure to store the water for usage. I used to think that this was the way of life for everyone. My perception changed in 2003, when I first started working for a small grassroots nonprofit in Meerut, a northern Indian city. I witnessed women and girls carrying loads of water to and from the point source for their household’s daily usage. On an average, they had to walk 3 miles per day to have adequate water for potable usage in their homes. Not only the women and girls were at risk of being attacked by stray dogs or abused by onlookers, they were missing out on the opportunities to get an education and contributing to the society.
In the developing world, from African to Asia, it is the responsibility of women and girls in households to bring water from the point source everyday. A new study review published by UNC’s Water Institute has found that carrying heavy loads of water over head (head loading) may impart physical stress to the bones and soft tissues of the neck and upper back through vertical compression, also called ‘axial loading’ or ‘axial compression.’ It’s especially dangerous for young girls in their formative years, which can result to permanent damage.
A universal problem:
While the above study focuses mostly on African countries (South African and Ghana), the challenge of carrying water overhead is a universal phenomenon in the developing world as seen in Asian countries of India and Vietnam. In India, the barrier is not only physical but also socio-economical. Dalit* women face the threat of violence against them while collecting the water unfortunately from the women of other castes. According to a paper published more than a decade ago, for the women in slums, peri-urban and urban areas, water and sanitation was one of the biggest daily challenges.
Solutions which are also low hanging fruits:
The three key policy and programmatic takeaways, in areas where water fetching must continue, strategies should focus on
  • reducing the distance to water sources,
  • providing alternatives to carrying water on the head, such as wheelbarrows, and
  • eliminating gender-based violence
In conclusion:
Fetching water is a barrier to achieving SDG 3 (“ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages”) because of its association with health problems. The burden of water collection, and the fact that it falls disproportionately on women and girls, is also a barrier to achieving target 1 of SDG 6 (SDG6.1: “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”). Applying policy instruments along with the solutions provided in Engineering for Change’s Solutions Library shall help remove barriers to achieving these two goals for all women and girls globally.
Disclaimer:
This article originally appeared on Engineering for Change under the heading
Reflections on a Review of Studies on the Physical and Emotional Toll of Carrying Water. It has been edited slightly for the ease of the readers of this blog.

References:
This article is based on the latest study published by UNC’s Water Institute’s WASH Policy Digest. For all the data and references cited above, please refer to the original article here. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
*In India’s caste based society, Dalits are at the lowest wrung of the ladder.

Water security means food security on the World Population Day 2019

green trees in high angle photo

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

<4 mins read. Approx. 350 words

The context:

It’s World Population Day today. World population is projected to reach approx. 10 billion by 2050. While water and food may seem interdependent, many a times their issues do not overlap. Combine that with political unrest and improperly managed water resources, the situation turns quite grim from the African countries to Asia and beyond.

Some data points:

“Food production is the largest consumer of water, and also represents the largest unknown factor of future water use as the world’s population continues to balloon, and we face increasing weather-related shocks and stresses,” said Laura Schulz, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment. She spoke at “Feeding a Thirsty World: Harnessing the Connections Between Food and Water Security,” an event sponsored by the Wilson Center, Winrock International, the Sustainable Water Partnership, and USAID earlier in April 2018. Currently about 70 percent of global water goes to agriculture, a number that is projected to rise “as high as 92 percent,” said Rodney Ferguson, the President and CEO of Winrock International.

Five quick facts on population and food production (FAO)

  1. Demand for cereals, for both food and feed, is projected to reach 3B tonnes by 2050, up from 2.1B tonnes today.
  2. 90% of crop production globally (80% in developing countries) is expected to come from more production and higher yields.
  3. 300M tonnes (almost 3 folds increase from today) of cereal is expected to reach the developing countries by 2050, to make up for their 14% increase in consumption.
  4. 72% of cereal production (up from 58% today) shall come from developing countries in 2050, aiding the annual global cereal production to reach 1B tonnes.
  5. Production in developing countries will need to be almost double by 2050, and overall by 70% globally.

Reducing water usage and managing the crop productivity better:

One of the most effective ways to accomplish the above is innovation. Often times, the SDGs also do not account for the inter-relationships between water and food production.

In conclusion:

‘Self- reliance’ shall be the key word in this ever changing climate and rapidly growing world. By enabling the farming community to take care of their water and crop systems, we can work towards ensuring the self-reliance for the current and future populations.

Disclaimer: This post originally appeared on Engineering for Change’s website, under the heading, ‘Water Security will Take Precedence in Food Production as Populations Rise’. It has been slightly edited, for the readers of this blog.

In Delhi, India water (not money) determines the haves and have nots

garbage on body of water

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Pexels.com

<2 mins read. Approx. 170 words

The context:

Reuters reports that $10-$15 is the amount that wealthy residents in Delhi, India, pay for unlimited piped water each month. Many lower-income residents of the city, however, are forced to rely on trucked-in water. This water is growing increasingly expensive as drought grips the country. Some residents report paying $10 a week for their supply, and report that the water is often of poor quality.

The above article also elaborates the idea of Water Gangs and Water Wars.

I wrote on the topic of Water Mafia in context of southern India in May 2019. Please click here to read that article. To read more about all related posts, please click here.

In conclusion:

Water woes of India, from all the way to it’s capital city of Delhi all the way to Chennai in Southern India, are far from over. The article above demonstrates water crisis in the lawmakers’ and Prime Minister’s very own backyard. How the government will work towards alleviating these woes remains to be seen.

Disclaimer: This post has been inspired in part by the original article on the Reuters website. The post In Delhi, India water (not money) determines the haves and have nots appeared first on theflipsideofdevelopment.wordpress.com

Period Poverty is closer to home than we know

 

pink menstrual cup in box

Photo by Vanessa Ramirez on Pexels.com

< 4 mins read. Approx. 390 words
The context:
When you hear about the lack of menstrual hygiene knowledge, products and access you generally picture women and girls in Asian, African or LatAm countries. What if you learn that within the US it is a challenge for a number of girls in schools and colleges to access these products or buy them? The shame surrounding ‘that time of the month’ is real in the US. It effect the girls’ attendance in school, their social activities and disrupts their normal life just like in any developing countries. The desperate girls buy proxy products or do not change their pads or tampons as often as needed. They are too embarrassed to ask for the products such as tampons and sanitary napkins from their fellow girl classmates or go to the nurse’s office. In one instance in a high school in Wisconsin, a girl spent 20 minutes looking for a product when she forgot to bring her own. This is here in the US and not in some African country that incidents like these happen on a daily basis.
The challenges:
Challenges are abound for the state, city officials as well the schools and colleges in addressing these issues. School officials say that the products are expensive (in terms of providing them for free). Some said that students also take advantage by taking more products than needed for their family members or even sell them for money.
The solution:
Upon hearing this Nadya Okamoto founded Period. Her organization has donated over 75 million sanitary hygiene products in the US. States like CA, NY, TN and IL have started programs to provide these products for free in schools. In RI, the $75000 towards these services and products is a fraction of the state’s $75M budget. Principal Wobberson Torchon in RI has already seen the positive affects and strongly supports the free access to menstrual hygiene products. These efforts all aim towards achieving menstrual equity for all.
In conclusion:
In today’s day and age, where social media is an extension of self impression for most younger generation of girls and women, these efforts shall go a long way in the breaking the stigma around periods and menstrual hygiene, says Okamoto.
For more information and coverage of this story please visit PBS Newshour’s website. 
Please click here to read related stories.
Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Engineering for Change’s website under the heading Period Poverty Occurs in the United States, Too.

Solutions for Combating Desertification and Drought

drought_affected_area_in_karnataka_india_2012

©IndiaWaterPortal

<4 mins read. Approx. 385 words

2019WDCD on June 17 was celebrated under the theme of 25 years of implementation of the Convention and beyond, focusing on the path the Convention has taken, and the future the Convention could bring.
 

The context:

The world’s food production is in jeopardy because the fertile layer of soil that people depend on to plant crops is being eroded by human activities. Climate change is likely to make it worse even as demand from a grown population is soaring. Soil erosion is a natural phenomenon, however factors such as intensive agriculture, deforestation, mining and urban sprawl accelerate it and reduce crop yields by up to 50 percent, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“We’re approaching a critical point at which we need to start acting on soil erosion or we are not going to be able to feed ourselves in the future.”

One-third of our global soils are already degraded. Soil pollution can be invisible and seems far away but everyone, everywhere is affected. With a growing global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, soil pollution is a worldwide problem. FAO also said that the equivalent of a soccer pitch of soil is eroded every five seconds, and the planet is on a path that could lead to the degradation of more than 90 percent of all the Earth’s soils by 2050.

“We’re approaching a critical point at which we need to start acting on soil erosion or we are not going to be able to feed ourselves in the future,” Lindsay Stringer, professor at England’s University of Leeds, said. She spoke on the sidelines of a three-day conference on soil erosion co-organised by the FAO.

In conclusion:

Water Management and Healthy Soils is one way to address global challenges such as mitigating soil pollution and ensuring food security via smarter water management and agricultural practices. Through solutions on how to maintain healthy soil and water on small farms in Africa to earn more revenue and climate change adaptation to ten ways to put human waste to use.  Experts and practitioners share their experiences from using age-old practices of farming in dry climates in Mozambique to combat desertification.

Disclaimer:

This article originally appeared on Engineering for Change’s blog under the heading Solutions to Keep Food on the Table in a Changing Climate

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