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Double rejoice on a single day?!?!

October 10, 2014
Girls fetching water©

Girls fetching water©

Since 2012, the United Nations marks 11 October as the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’. The day promotes girls’ human rights, highlights gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys and addresses the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world. This year, the theme is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence”.

Today is also the day the The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.  Children must go to school and not be financially exploited.  In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age.  It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected.

How do these iconic days relate to water and gender issues in general?

In terms of availability of clean water on a daily basis for the children in the developing countries and especially girl child it’s a constant struggle.

Throughout the course of my decade long career in India, I have seen women and girls fetch water from distances as far as 10 kms (6.21371 miles) or dedicating 8-10 hours of the day just collecting water for their families. I will admit that the country has come a long way since the early 2000s. In tier II cities, such as Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, it is still evident what life means for women and girls in terms of the potable water availability every day in urban slums. Non-availability of potable water close to home also results in violence against women and girl child since they are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse while seeking water sources located remotely. There could be other dangers in the form of animal (dogs) attack and others as well.

Fortunately there is a ray of hopes in the form of grassroots organizations working tirelessly to alleviate the everyday drudgery of women and girls in terms of water availability.

On this side of the globe, organizations are trying to push for mainstreaming policies by keeping the girls and women at their center.

How does all this relate to the UN Women’s and Noble Peace Prize’s theme? One can imagine that if the women and girls in a family are free of their daily chores of searching for water, they can easily attend school without having to spend their time otherwise. The old saying goes, “when you educate a boy you educate an individual, however when you educate a girl you educate a family or household.” This cannot resonate more than on a day like today.

Joint efforts from both sides of developing and developed world shall go a long way in educating the girl child and children overall in making them informed and progressive citizens of tomorrow.

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