general

UC Student Workers Union Letter of Solidarity with Detroit Water Activists

[Reposting this open letter written by my union of student workers at University of California. UAW 2865 is formed of teaching assistants, tutors, and other student workers. This letter was shared with UAW Local 22, UAW Local 600, UAW Local 2865, the Detroit People’s Water Board, the office of Detroit Water and Sewage Department Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the office of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.]

To All, Who Should Be Concerned:

We write to condemn strongly Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan, and Detroit Water and Sewage Department Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr who are now presiding over unprecedented, unjust residential water shut-offs and overseeing efforts to privatize Detroit’s water supply. This ongoing campaign is meant to deprive people of a most vital resource: skyrocketing hikes in the price of public water in a city with 50% unemployment, massive layoffs of city water workers and other public sector employees, and bringing in corporate-friendly crisis managers like Mr. Orr who have ignored the public’s concerns and outrage.

As the stewards of one of the most valuable water plants, with the most highly trained public workers, and which sits near the largest body of fresh water in the world, we believe the City of Detroit and the Detroit Water and Sewage Department have an obligation to service their surrounding communities. We acknowledge the difficult and costly work of providing clean water free of harmful pollutants. But rather than viewing this service as a private benefit few can afford, we believe it is a public obligation essential for community health and vitality. We therefore support the implementation of the Detroit People’s Water Board’s proposal for offsetting the cost of water treatment and ensuring sustained access.

Furthermore, we write in support of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’s censure of the mass water shut-offs, which have disproportionately impacted working class families, the elderly, and residents of color. Indeed, these residents have also unfairly borne the brunt of Detroit’s foreclosure crisis at the behest of banks and other private entities, the evisceration of public education and other essential services, the sell-off of city infrastructure and community holdings, and layoffs of public workers following drastic cuts to their retirement earnings.

Finally, we write in solidarity with the many community activists working to oppose this public health crisis and the privatization efforts driving it. We salute our fellow UAW workers of Local 22 and Local 600 who have vocally campaigned against this devastating state of affairs, some of whom were recently arrested while trying to prevent further deprivation of water to their communities. Like us, these workers see the water shut offs as a sign of Detroit’s divestment from working class communities and people of color, paving the way for their sickness and death amid gentrification. This is shameful. We uphold the UN’s ruling that access to clean water, like air and land, is a basic human right. As student-workers we write, train, research, teach, and mentor for a future where vital resources are held in public common and not exploited.

We write in solidarity with and admiration of the many inspiring individuals who daily resist the logic of privatization. From California to Detroit, we stand with you in the fight for renewed investment in the public.

In Deepest Solidarity,

UAW 2865, the Academic Student Workers of the University of California

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collaboration, community, development, general, homeless, international, ngo, participatory management, sanitation, united nations

Empowerment and Gender Equality in Water and Sanitation: What does it mean? What does it matter?

If you know of work done by non-profit or governmental organizations globally, you have likely heard the words –  empowerment and gender equality. Groups worldwide use these terms in apparent pursuit of more equitable water and sanitation projects ranging from entrepreneurship to provision. When first exposed to these terms during my master’s studies in 2010, I became intrigued with understanding how empowerment and gender equality related to more participatory water and sanitation projects. Yet after conducting research for my master’s project [Empowerment and Gender Equality for Water and Sanitation in Rural India: Two Case Studies], it became clear these terms were used by organizations very differently. While some organizations might imply a borewell for water results in empowerment, others said participating on a decision-making committee results in empowerment (and so on).

Amidst this array of disparate definitions, it appeared to me such terms still might have some capacity to be somewhat useful conceptual approaches for more equitable water and sanitation projects. So when I received the opportunity this past summer to attend two different workshops focusing on empowerment and gender equality, I took the chance. In July, I attended a United Nations program in Geneva to see how different UN entities employed (or failed to) these concepts. In August, I traveled to UCLA for another workshop focusing on empowerment in public health.

After attending the UN Graduate Study Program, I began to wonder if there might be better discourse for equitable water and sanitation projects globally. Study program participants heard over twenty seminars from UN agencies – International Labor Organization, International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, UN High Commission for Refugees, UN Human Rights Council, Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Office at Geneva, UN Secretary General Envoy on Youth, UNAIDS, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, and UNICEF. Many of these organizations talked about how they focus on women internally and externally, but it was often difficult for them to describe how they incorporated a true gendered-approach into their practices (e.g. focusing on power differentials between all people not just looking only at women). It appeared some of them were stuck in a paradigm of second-wave feminism when more transnational feminist approaches are now critical. What this means in basic terms is that most UN agencies use a “universal woman” approach (i.e. a “western woman” approach) instead of looking at larger nation-state and economic structural disparities.

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Above Photo: Author of blog post is located in left front row in white short-sleeve button-down. UN Photographer.

Studying at the UCLA Global Health and Empowerment workshop provided a chance to dig more into the theory behind empowerment in various disciplines. We read everything from Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Naila Kabeer’s Resources, Agency, and Achievements, and Jane Parpart’s Lessons from the Field. See entire syllabus here. This course covered a variety of critical and conservative empowerment theories in global health and global development (that word again) literature. My final grant-proposal project focused on sanitation and health issues in the US for two reasons: 1) the global north/global south binary is highly disconcerting to me, and 2) we have dire sanitation needs here that also demand attention. One of those sanitation needs is sanitation with/for those living outside in many cities in this wealthy nation. My proposal “Together for WASH: Pilot Program for Participatory and Gender-Sensitive Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene with Unhoused People in the United States” is currently undergoing final review. Here’s a sneak peek:

The long-term goal of this proposal is to improve measurable public health outcomes linked to WASH among unhoused people (men, women, and children) living in group camps furthering their upward social mobility and capacity to participate in social change. The objective of this proposal is to pilot low-cost and scalable WASH solutions coupled with participatory WASH programs in two group camps in two US cities. This pilot program is gender-sensitive using gender-specific solutions (e.g. eco-urinals and a menstrual hygiene management program) and gender-sensitive participatory techniques (e.g. community dialogue about gender burdens of WASH and representative participation). This pilot program uses an arts-based approach to give unhoused people a venue to highlight vulnerability in water and sanitation while communicating with policymakers to influence greater social change. This pilot program will lead to engagement in both individual and collective processes of empowerment resulting in critical consciousness among unhoused people in the realm of WASH.

So the jury is still out on water and sanitation development sector usage of terms like empowerment and gender equality.  It is not that empowerment and gender equality approaches are incompatible with true participatory water and sanitation programs. It is just that: 1) empowerment water and sanitation projects should be bottom-up instead of the top-down, 2) empowerment and gender equality definitions should be clearly outlined prior to development of water and sanitation programs, 3) larger structural frameworks and power structures have to be taken into account (e.g. examining how someone can experience empowerment on a local scale while being disempowered on the global economic scale), 4)  it is critical to consider scale when thinking about empowerment and gender equality in water and sanitation, 5) empowerment as part of international-development discourse might actually reinforce oppressions, and 6) alternative conceptual approaches for examining and participating in equitable water and sanitation programs could include liberatory or autonomous frameworks.

Author’s Postscript: If you would like to read more about empowerment theories from multiple disciplines, please check out this shared Google Drive list put together by colleagues and myself.

community, development, general, global, ngo, united nations

What kind of world do we want after 2015?

Sometimes it can feel difficult to make our voices heard on this big planet. But I just found out about a new website created by the United Nations with civil society groups to collect ideas for solving global poverty problems [including water and sanitation] after 2015. It’s called The World We Want 2015. Like the internet and the United Nations, it’s not perfect. Themes aren’t inclusive, not everyone have access to a computer, and allocated time is too short. But if you’re interested in global conversations regarding “development” after Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, this is a chance to hear and speak about such issues from January 15th to February 15th.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were identified after the Millennium Summit in 2000. The eight goals cover topics such as poverty, environment, and health. Critics of MDGs cite problems such as lack of justification behind goals, difficulty monitoring goals, or inadequate attention to issues like agriculture or sanitation. Others believe MDGs encourage country progress, help the global sector focus on more than just income, and direct funding towards related projects. The UN has been tracking MDG progress. The 2012 MDG Report indicates targets for reducing extreme poverty, halving populations without safe drinking water, and improving conditions for those in slums have been met. But differences between regions are stark. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa is far behind all other regions. And sanitation targets have not been met worldwide.

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Above Photo: Tarek on Wikimedia Commons

People are talking about what should happen after 2015. Should there be another set of goals? Should “development” embrace bottom-up processes? What about foreign aid? Should indicators be universal? Some of these post-2015 topics are documented on The Broker – an online magazine for globalization and development. And The World We Want 2015 website provides an opportunity for civil society groups to engage in similar conversations. There are a few ways to get involved. Join the website using this registration link or follow on twitter at #post2015, #beyond2015, and #inequalities2015.

If you’re interested in water and sanitation like me, you can check out the water consultation – the portal on the website for talking about water and sanitation after 2015. There are three water sub-consultations: 1) Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene 2) Water Resources Management, and 3) Wastewater and Water Quality. Each week until February 15th, the sub-consultations will feature a different topic for discussion. Discussions will be compiled at a meeting held in The Hague around World Water Day 2013 on March 22nd. On a side note – it’s disconcerting they didn’t include sanitation as an independent consultation. Especially when the world is so far behind in meeting the MDG for sanitation. But I guess here’s my chance using the website to say so. Happy Friday!

general, sanitation, south africa

Talking Poo with You: World Toilet Summit 2012

It seems a little progress is being made in getting the world to talk poo. Some people know that 2.5 billion humans lack safe access to toilets and over 4,000 kids die each day from diarrhea illnesses linked with poor sanitation. Fewer people understand toilet issues affect everybody either in natural disasters or through types of sanitation systems (h20 or non-h20) used. But there is more work to be done to ensure all people have a humane place to go and to design sanitation systems that protect the natural environment. The annual summit started by the World Toilet Organization is where such conversations are started. As a volunteer for a grassroots group working on toilets in North America, I’ve been nominated to present PHLUSH (Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human) efforts there.

So PHLUSH – and by default Water for the Ages – is heading to the World Toilet Summit next week in Durban, South Africa. Local event sponsors are the South African Toilet Organization and the Foundation for Professional Development. Leading toilet experts from around the globe will be in attendance. The list is invigorating. Bindeshwar Pathak an Indian sociologist and founder of Sulabh International, Dr. Kamal Kar a specialist in social and participatory development in sanitation, Barbara Penner whose current project is studying the history of h20-based sanitation expansion amidst high economic and environmental costs, Hannah Neumeyer a senior legal manager of WASH United, Piers Cross with a background in social anthropology and public health who helped organize AfricaSan, and more. The agenda is packed!

To share their [the above toilet aficionados] knowledge with the world, I’ll liveblog and livetweet the event. Check out PHLUSH liveblog starting December 3 for updates. Follow @PortlandPHLUSH and @waterfortheages for livetweets using conference hashtag of #WTS2012. All talks to be covered are listed below this post. And it would be great to hear issues you want me to cover at the World Toilet Summit. Please make your voice heard using the poll below. This amazing opportunity is made available by a sponsorship from the World Toilet Summit and donations from many supporters. In the honor of service at the World Toilet Summit next week, it’s time to talk poo and share it with you.

December 4, 2012
Keynote Address by Dr. Bindshwar Patak from 10:45 to 11:00 (10:45 to 11:00 PST)
African Toilet Design from 11:00 to 11:15 (1:00 to 1:15 PST)
Sanitation for All by Piers Cross from 11:45 to 12:00 (1:45 to 2:00 PST)
Achievements and Challenges of CLTS in Africa by Dr. Kamal Kar from 12:45 to 13:00 (2:45 to 3:00 PST)
Sanitation and Human Rights by Hannah Neumeyer from 14:30 to 16:00 (4:30 to 6:00 PST)

December 5, 2012
Sustainable Health and Hygiene Practices by Therese Dooley from 10:00 to 10:40 (00:00 to 00:40 PST)
Gender in Sanitation by Maxie Matthiessen from 11:30 to 11:50 (1:30 to 1:50 PST)
Mobile Communal Sanitation by Christopher Muanda from 15:30 to 16:30 (5:30 to 6:30 PST)

December 6, 2012
Green Buildings Recovery of Water and Nutrients by Jan-Olaf Drangert from 10:45 to 11:00 (00:45 to 1:00 PST)

general, PSA-a-thon Series

Water and Food – PSA-a-thon Series

In honor of this year’s World Water Week and World Water Day themes of Water and Food Security, it’ll be fun to see some Public Service Announcements conveying a similar message. It was actually a bit difficult to find them on this topic. The first PSA was posted on AlertNet not long ago. In a simple way, it details the surprisingly high amounts of water required to produce different types of food. An H20 Food page on this blog that covered similar things is archived here.

And if you still don’t quite see how water and food security are connected, the next PSA will help you understand. It was created by the International Food Policy Research Institute, and it details how the water, energy, and food sectors affect each other. It’s a really good intro video – please share.

film, general, international, water justice

Abuello Grillo vs. The World

Words aren’t needed when watching this animation convey water justice issues using universal languages of imagery and sound. This animation was created at The Animation Workshop by a group of animators from Bolivia, a French director, music from Bolivia, and others from Mexico and Germany. It features Abuello Grillo (or Grandmother Cricket). Her melodic voice causes the rain to fall filling rivers and feeding crops. One day on a trip away from the countryside, she is kidnapped. Her captors make her sing on stage while they fill water trucks to sell the water to villagers.

The ability of a wordless film to tell an intricate story reminds me we can communicate globally without language barriers. This film was able to make me remember many people in the Global South face extremely high water prices when companies purchase and sell municipal water, wonder about the legality of extracting massive amounts of water for bottled water sales, and inquire about the nuances of the definition of human right to water. What does it tell you?

conference, general, international, measurement, politics, sanitation

#wwweek Talk Brief: Sanitation and Water for All

The first event I tuned to was the Sanitation and Water for All: Global Decision-makers Unite on WASH talk. Volunteering with PHLUSH, I wanted to get some info on global sanitation initiatives, and I liked the way this group includes sanitation first in their title. The Sanitation and Water for All partnership is over 80 country and organization partners with a goal of universal, sustainable sanitation and water through mutual trust and accountability. They believe in three avenues for action: 1) political prioritization, 2) evidenced based decision-making, and 3) robust planning. They meet alternate years at a High Level Meeting (HLM), and over 400 sanitation and water commitments were made in 2012 with cross-cutting themes of open-defecation, equity, private-sector engagement, and climate change.


Above Photo: SWA

This talk hosted multiple presenters who work with the partnership. They emphasized the value of monitoring HLM commitments, “a big problem in the sector is monitoring and real-time results related to services.” But each country is responsible for measuring such independently. One presenter, Baker Yiga from ANEW, says countries in his region act on commitments by coordination at the national level, sector working groups, and popularization of commitments with civil servants. Another presenter, Bai Mass Taal from AMCOW, says it’s important to bring sanitation to the highest political level and ensure ministers translate commitments on-the-ground. One Twitter comment called for more “tangible examples related to WASH monitoring like Waterpoint Mapping.” For more info on the talk, Twitter comments from this session at #sw4all were compiled into Storify. If you have any updates, send me a message.

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The Case for Pay Toilets (in Portland, Oregon)

This is an opinion piece on pay toilets. It was written for the PHLUSH blog in response to an article published in the Portland Mercury called When You Gotta Go. This post talks about my experiences using pay toilets in Europe, and it suggests a similar model could be implemented in Portland, Oregon.

A recent trip to Europe made me question the American way of feeling entitled to pee for free. After helping local sanitation group PHLUSH with two great summer events, I traveled out of the country with my partner while he completed company training. As Rose George said in The Big Necessity  “once you notice something, you notice it everywhere. Our most basic bodily function, and how we choose to deal with it, leaves signs everywhere entwined with everything, as intricately  intimate with human life as sewers are with the city.” So I noticed toilets on this trip abroad  – in the train stations of Germany and on the main squares of Italy. They were everywhere, and they typically cost money to use.

Two short toilet vignettes:

Germany: Avoiding the cramped airplane toilet during the flight to Germany, I really had to go after landing. I rushed to the main station to catch a train. Temporary WCs (the others under construction) were located on Track 3, and the sign said € .50. An attendant took my money and ushered me to a stall. Instead of walking into the usual stinky portable toilet, I was welcomed by a sparkling commode and sink.


Above Photo: L.Wilms on Wikimedia Commons.

Italy: It turns out € .50 wasn’t enough in Venice. We took a shared water bus from the airport to the city, which is man-made above a lagoon. Inside the bus station, I found the WC. The cost was €1.50. I really had to go, so I put some money in the turnstile and entered. This toilet was like most others I had experienced in Europe: private [unlike many North American stalls], fresh, and clean.


Above Photo: Public toilet in San Polo. Durant and Cheryl Imboden.

At the beginning of this month-long trip, I often thought indignantly “why do I have to pay to use the WC everywhere?”. The expensive Venetian toilets were especially disconcerting. But I slowly began to appreciate the cleanliness and availability of toilets. Toilet supplies like paper and soap were always available, floors were un-littered, and toilet seats were clean and dry. You could usually find a toilet within walking distance, and the fees helped maintain the toilets and pay attendants. For the most part, I became a pay-toilet believer.

After reading the article When You Gotta Go about the lack of public toilets in Portland, I wondered “could the pay toilet model provide some relief to Portland?” The article stated there were few public toilets in the city and many were unpleasant. The Portland Loos are serviced by Clean and Safe, but there are only five of them and a handful of other tax-supported toilet locations. Some businesses downtown have public toilets, but they are only usable by clients and customers. If the City of Portland built pay toilets in central shopping locations downtown, many visitors could afford to use them. Perhaps the income from the toilets could also provide additional revenue to an organization like Clean and Safe.

Of course, there would be a few hurdles when moving forward with pay toilets in Portland. Some toilets would need to continue to be [low cost and/or] free for those with no money. This would be in alignment with the United Nations Resolution that “clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights”. Pay toilets could be provided by businesses alongside the free toilets that are mandated by occupancy-based building codes, but the American Restroom Association website points out that the National Model Building Code “does not allow pay toilets unless mandated toilets are also available without charge”. Finally, the public would need to be re-conditioned to see the value of paying to pee. But I believe the last hurdle would be quickly overcome after each person has their first experience in a clean-smelling, supply-rich, convenient toilet during a harrowing day in the big city.

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Water for the Ages Gets a Brand New (out)Look

Start: In September 2007, I decided to create a blog to better understand global water problems with the hope of finding solutions. I built the Water for the Ages blog as a place to compile water-related information and write posts about global water issues. This blog also surprisingly became a place to communicate with other passionate H20 people from around the world.

Reach: Soon after starting it, I enrolled in a graduate program in Water Resources Management to learn more about global issues. I lived and blogged in India for several months while conducting research, and I completed a thesis on empowerment in water and sanitation. India changed me. After coming home, I wondered how one young, white girl from North America could ever make a tangible difference. I didn’t want to be another person with an imperialistic agenda.


Above Photo: Hidden Me Blogging in 2009

Grow: Over the past year, I blogged little while doing a quite a bit. I worked in the renewable energy sector with the hope of learning about the energy-water nexus. I volunteered with an amazing sanitation advocacy group called PHLUSH. I received a scholarship to attend a graduate program in Environmental Sociology at University of California. The most difficult of all, I engaged in self growth.

Learn: I eventually realized that people can solve problems best when they work together, each person has different useful strengths, communication is everything, and it’s important to “be me”. So now I’m in Santa Cruz preparing for my graduate program, and I figured it was a great time to revitalize Water for the Ages. When I signed on, the many comments from inspiring people over the past few months reminded me that I was on the right track.

Ta Da: So I present to you the new-and-improved Water for the Ages blog. I even added a nifty calendar on the upper left right which shows you important global water and sanitation events. I imported this information from IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and UN Water. I can’t promise how regularly I’ll be blogging, but I figured resources here are handy. I’m remembering – it’s the little things that count.

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College Students Take Big Strides to Conserve Water

The average person in the U.S. uses anywhere between 80 and 100 gallons a day, and Columbia Gorge Community College [where I now work where I used to work] is no exception. The college used an average of 1,880 gallons a day for irrigation, drinking water, and sanitation purposes at the Hood River campus last year – and the college is working to set a better example. “Reducing water usage on campus is a good idea,” said Jules Burton, Environmental Science faculty at the college. “Such measures can help the college save money and conserve water supplies from three groundwater springs that serve the entire city.”

Her class took on the task of understanding current water usage at the college by conducting a School Water Audit. This type of audit is a recognized standard for analyzing water sources, compiling water uses, and identifying ways to save water. There are many types of School Water Audit formats available, but the class used one called Be Water Wise created by the National Environmental Education Foundation.

The class conducted the audit at the Hood River – Indian Creek Campus, and it took two days to complete. The class evaluated indoor and outdoor water usage. Students tallied water bills, identified leaky faucets, measured sink and toilet water flow, counted spigots, and reviewed the entire irrigation system. They drafted a detailed report that identified possible water problems, and they suggested ways to save water.

“Some interesting findings are found in the summary document,” Burton reports. “The students identified ways to save water by irrigating the native trees and shrubs less and using a targeted watering scheme. They also suggested using more efficient aerators on all showerheads, sinks, and spigots at the college. One of their major goals is to ensure the college meets the EPA efficiency standards for water use, and they identified simple measures to help us meet this goal.”

The college’s Green Team – an advisory group of college staff and faculty – is now reviewing this School Water Audit information and will work to implement suggestions at the Hood River campus. Jules Burton and her Environmental Science class will be conducting another School Water Audit on The Dalles campus this spring, and the Green Team enthusiastically supports their efforts.

This green initiative is summarized with a slightly-updated quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed [students] can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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Detail Talk Blog: H20 in India and Beyond

My dear friend Praveena continues to inspire me with her devotion to improve the quality of life for people in our world. Herself and her friends, Sachin and Prateek, recently started a thought-provoking blog called Detail Talk based out of South India. This blog, like their film company Bhoomi Productions, is linked to their interests and endeavors in entrepreneurial and social development projects.

Detail Talk focuses on many topics including “matters of utmost concern to India and to the world and where we are confident of contributing in a greater capacity. These for us are Education, Environment and Healthcare. On Detail Talk we cover conferences, workshops, other events like film festivals and expositions related to these broad categories that we set ourselves on.” For those of us interested in water conversations, this blog talks a LOT about water.

Above Photo: India during monsoon. Courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Here are a few of the water posts on their blog.

Water Stories from Around the World: Book Review
Bringing order in a chaotic water management scenario: Case study from Udupi district
I am large, I contain multitudes: On Water
Inter State Water Disputes and the Judiciary

To see the rest, check out Detail Talk. My simple overview does not do this blog justice. Thanks Praveena, Sachin, and Prateek. Keep-on with conversations for positive change.

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10 Facts on Women and Water

  1. Women and children fetch the majority of water for household uses in rural areas. Often this keeps them from attending school or working at a job.
  2. The average distance that women and children walk for water in Africa and Asia is six kilometers (3.7 miles).
  3. Women carry heavy loads of water (about 20 liters) on their heads in some locations in the world. This causes severe damage to the neck and spine over time.
  4. Women make most household water and sanitation decisions, but they are rarely invited to be involved in planning or management of water and sanitation systems.
  5. Water projects that involve women in planning and management are proven more likely to succeed.
  6. In many places in the world, women’s land rights are not recognized, and they are unable to access water for agricultural uses.
  7. On average, women work twice as long as men for unpaid work (housework, cleaning, cooking, washing, etc.) than men.
  8. Women are primary caretakers of the millions of children that fall ill each year from water-related illnesses. This reduces time spent working or on education.
  9. For mothers and pregnant women, an improved water supply and proper water storage is essential to protect lives and ensure good health.
  10. Women are under-represented in water and sanitation sector jobs with men having most jobs in this field.


Above Photo: Generations of women and girls.

general, india

Water for the Ages in India: Impressions of H20 in Bangalore

Thursday was my first day in Bengaluru (aka Bangalore). Before arriving, it was impossible for me to comprehend the size of the city. Bangalore is huge with a population of around 6.5 million people. This is the largest city that I have ever visited, and there are people, buildings, and vehicles everywhere. Quickly I am learning to adapt to life (and water) here.

While walking around town, I saw water tankers with pipes going into businesses and buildings. A man from a local restaurant explained to me that the city only provides water on alternate days. On days when the city does not provide water, residents and business owners often buy their own water from private companies.

Another thing I noticed was free drinking water available at stands, in pots, and in other vessels around town. It seems a part of the culture to ensure that all people have, at least, some water to drink. I hope to take photos of these drinking-water sources for the Water for the Ages flickr site.

And, this weekend, I was able to attend a part of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration. This celebration honors the Hindu deity of Ganesha and lasts for about ten days. Near the tenth day, idols of Lord Ganesh are dunked in water sources. Unfortunately, I missed the dunking, but I did attend some of the evening festivities.

Ganesh in Lake
Photo courtesy mattlogelin on flickr.

So, as you can tell, the importance of water abounds in many contexts in India. I am looking forward to learning (and sharing with you) more about water in India over the next four months.

community, drinking water, general, india, ngo, sanitation, water availability, water justice

My Soon-to-be Journey to India: An Arghyam Internship

Life has been bustling as I prepare for an internship in India. This year, I was accepted for an internship with Arghyam – an NGO that works on water and sanitation projects across India – in Bangalore. This internship is part of my master’s studies at Oregon State University (my major is Water Resources Policy and Management and my minor is Women Studies). It will last from September 1st until December 31st.

Arghyam Header1

My internship with Arghyam will focus mainly on gender and water issues in South India. Such issues are important to understand to ensure all people have fair access to and participation in the management of water and sanitation resources. Through my adventures, I will continue to post on Water for the Ages (both on my internship and other international water issues). Stay tuned for more information to follow. There will be photos, videos, and more.

If you are interested in an international water internship in India, Arghyam has other internship opportunities available. Be sure and check out their impressive India Water Portal for details on these positions.