Friday, March 27, 2009

Clinton urged by prominent women to place priority on safe drinking water and sanitation

Water advocates sent a letter today to Secretary of State Clinton asking her to prioritize the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation, arguing that women bear a disproportionate share of the burden.  WATER ADVOCATES, a Washington, D.C. group formed to raise awareness of the water issue among policymakers in Washington D.C., issued the press release that follows.

Water Advocates

1506 21st Street NW, Suite 200, Washington DC 20036 | Telephone 202 293 4003 | Fax 202 293 4001 |

For Immediate Release
Press Contact: John Sauer, Water Advocates
(202) 293-4003

Dear Secretary Clinton: “Women of the World Need Safe Water”

Washington, DC—March 25—In an unprecedented letter of concern to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, prominent women have urged enhanced U.S. leadership to reduce the burden on women from inadequate drinking water and sanitation in developing countries. The Secretary of State received the letter between International Women’s Day (March 8) and World Water Day (March 22) to emphasize this critical linkage.

It is the first time that women in America have come together from such diverse fields - non-governmental, corporate, philanthropic, environmental and entertainment – to advocate the global importance of safe water and sanitation from a women’s perspective.

In their letter, the women leaders urged Secretary Clinton to take five actions that would make this issue a higher priority in U.S. foreign policy:
• appoint high-level advocates for water in the U.S. State Department and USAID
• commit U.S. leadership on the world stage
• significantly increase funding
• complete the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act Strategy
• hire qualified field staff

The prominent women leaders characterized the global lack of water and sanitation as an urgent, but solvable, development challenge. Nearly one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people do not have a safe place to dispose their excreta or a place to wash their hands. Women and their children bear the most severe burden from this crisis.

“If safe drinking water were accessible,” says the letter, “women would not waste 40 billion hours annually fetching water from distant and contaminated sources. Only with safe water will women and their families have a chance to live without debilitating water-borne diseases (such as cholera, typhoid, and amoebic dysentery). Only then will they free their time to engage in income-generating activities, education, and caring for their families.”

Sanitation, a typically ignored women’s issue, is central to the women’s message. The letter points out that “latrines enhance girls’ attendance at school (especially once at the age of menstruation). They would provide dignity to the one billion women who otherwise defecate in the open, and reduce direct exposure to disease-causing pathogens.”

Proven techniques and technologies are readily available to provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Experienced developmental organizations stand ready to increase their work with the U.S. government around the world. The letter also calls upon Secretary Clinton to encourage public-private partnerships to solve this global crisis and improve the condition of women and children worldwide.

“It is often forgotten how important water is to women’s lives,” emphasized Andra Tamburro of the non-profit organization, Water Advocates. “Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is an essential step to empowering women.”

The signers include the following:

Harriet Babbitt
Vice Chair of the Global Water Challenge; Former Deputy Administrator, USAID

Kathy Baczko

Carol Bellamy
President & CEO, World Learning

Frances Beinecke
President, NRDC

Katryn Bowe
Water Advocates

Sally Cowal
Senior Vice President and Chief Liaison Officer, PSI

Patricia Dandonoli
CEO of WaterAid America

Monica D. Ellis
President & CEO, Global Environment & Technology Foundation

Helene Gayle
President & CEO of CARE

Molly F. Greene
Founder, Chief Philanthropy Officer
Water Missions International

Sherri Goodman
Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security)

Patricia Hall
President & Founder, H2O for Life

Ashley Judd

Nicole Lee
Executive Director, TransAfrica Forum, Inc.

Lee Lysne
Executive Director, Kind World Foundation

Tanvi Nagpal
Director, Water and Sanitation Initiatives, Global Water Challenge

Melanie Nakagawa
Attorney, International Program, NRDC

Michaela Oldfield
Water Advocates

Rachel Posner
Assistant Director, Global Water Futures Project

Kathleen Rogers
President, Earth Day Network

Jeannine B. Scott
Senior Vice President, Africare

Jane Seymour

Willa Shalit
Founder & CEO, Fair Winds Trading, Inc.

Mrs. Paul Simon

Andra Tamburro
Water Advocates

Christine Todd Whitman
President, The Whitman Strategy Group; Former Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency

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