Activists Demand Gender Equality in Water Management

Article excerpt

Women and men have different relationships with water. For women it implies a work overload, since they are responsible for their families' water supply, said many women from Latin America, Europe and Africa at the Fourth World Water Forum, which was held in Mexico City March 16-22.

"To live in an environment with poor water quality puts women in a disadvantageous situation for their development compared to men," stated the Blue Agenda for Women, written by the Gender and Environment Network and presented at the forum.

The agenda demanded that the right to safe, clean, accessible and sufficient water supplies for both domestic and productive uses be recognized as a basic human right.

"It serves no purpose to have water nearby, to see the dams near your house, if to have it means carrying it in buckets, walking four kilometers with a chamaco [baby] on your back and a heap of clothes in front," said Maria Cruz de Paz Reyes, a member of the Mazahua Movement for the Defense of Natural Resources.

The Mazahua indigenous group explained that water is taken out of their communities to supply large cities and urban areas, one of them metropolitan Mexico City.

"While they take the water to the cities, we don't have any," said de Paz, whose community has been protesting the use of the Cutzamala River to supply water to the 20 million inhabitants of the Mexico City metropolitan area.

The Mazahua Movement presented its case before the Latin American Water Tribunal, a nonjudicial body that participated in an event parallel to the World Water Forum.

For the first time, the water tribunal held a public hearing that judged 14 cases presented by environmental organizations and affected communities from various countries. Among its resolutions, the tribunal found negligence and human rights violations in the lack of sufficient quality water supplies.

Regarding the Mazahuas' demand, the Latin American Water Tribunal said it is socially and environmentally unfeasible to transfer water to Mexico City from distant aquifers, stripping these populations in these areas, as a solution to water supply problems.

The water tribunal said that governmental authorities and institutions, state-run and foreign companies, and the World Bank were guilty of favoring projects that work against life and the environment.

The Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council presented the forum with an official report that documented the benefits achieved from women playing a role in the planning, management and implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene services, known as WASH. …