Women & Water (in light of International Women's Day)
As many of you are likely aware, March 8th is International Women's Day. (*Apologies for the late post, I'm having some serious internet problems at home!)
How does this relate to water? In a number of ways:
- Women require more water daily than men, and pregnant and nursing women require even more water (according to the World Health Organization)
Pregnant women also require additional fluid replacement to ensure that foetal needs are met,
as well as providing for expanding extra-cellular space and amniotic fluid. The US National
Research Council suggests an allowance of an extra 30ml per day during pregnancy (Food
and Nutrition Board, 1989). Lactating women have additional water requirements, leading to
an additional requirement of 750ml to 1 litre per day for the first six months of lactation
(Food and Nutrition Board, 1989). In those groups with least access to water supply, women
who are pregnant or lactating frequently continue to undertake at least moderate activity in
high temperatures, therefore these needs are additive to the basic needs of all adults. - WHO report (pp.5-6)
- First Nations in Canada value water spiritually and consider women as keepers of the water. This is reflected in the Anishinabek Women's Water Council, and also in the Water Declaration of the First Nations of Ontario.
The latter has a section describing "relationship to water", which states:
First Nations woman are the keepers of water as women bring babies into the world carried on by the breaking of the water and;
First Nations in Ontario through the teachings of women have the responsibility to care for the land and the
waters by our Creator [and];
And the following were identified in the "major themes" section:
The vital importance of the traditional role of First Nations women as water keepers and the need to ensure that youth are educated in all customs and spirituality related to the waters;
Indigenous women are the holders of the rights to the waters.
What's incredibly inspiring and jaw-dropping is that a native grandmother named Josephine Mandamin walked 17,000 kilometres around the Great Lakes to raise awareness about water issues. She and others walked around Lake Superior in Spring 2003, around Lake Michigan in 2004, Lake Huron in 2005, Lake Ontario in 2006 and Lake Erie in 2007. She carried a copper pail with her along with the message that "the water is sick". Now, an annual Mother Earth Water Walk takes place every April.
Josephine talks a bit about her experience in this video.
I think the concept of the Great Law is a very valid one, and something we should all keep in mind. This article explains:
Doing nothing, however, is not an option in Iroquois communities bound by their nation's Great Law. The Great Law dictates that every action be weighed for its impact on the next seven generations.
- Access to water (and lack thereof) disproportionately affects women in developing countries, who are often the family member responsible for fetching water--in some instances, that can be kilometres away--an average of 6 kilometres, actually--taking women away from other important tasks and putting them at risk for attack, let alone fatigue or sun stroke, etc. Oxfam puts it well:
When unpredictable rainfall makes food, fuel and water scarce, women have to walk longer and farther to collect them ¾ time that could have been spent studying, earning an income or working to better their communities. What’s more, long remote treks often put women at a greater risk of violence.
To put things in perspective, water is not only an environmental issue; it's a social justice issue. We all need water to survive. People in developing countries like Mozambique use an average of 5 L per day, and here we Canadians are using an average of 329 L per day, letting the tap run, watering grass (like grass is a priority) and taking water for granted. Where's the respect? This video really sums up why I'm doing this (thank you, GOOD magazine!):
For those of you who may be more interested in this topic, I encourage you to read up on it. A great website I came across today is WomenandWater.ca , which claims to "explore the gendered risks to women in a country where access to safe water is often taken for granted". They have some neat projects and publications. I know I'll be checking back in.
In the meantime, try to cut back on your own water consumption! Have questions or ideas? Let me know by commenting on this blog! :)