Today, 22 March, World Water Day, PSI's General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli states the importance of tax-funded public water and sanitation for all, but especially for realizing women's rights. In an interview*, Pavanelli talks about the major challenges in achieving this goal.
What is the current situation of the lack of access to water supply and sanitation?
According to the WHO/UNICEF report, worldwide, over one billion people lack access to an adequate water supply; more than twice as many lack basic sanitation. Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and insufficient hygiene account for an estimated 9.1 percent of the diseases globally and 6.3 percent of all deaths, which disproportionately impact children under five years of age. The same report shows that the lack of these basic necessities also influences the workload, safety, education, and equity of women. Access to, and availability of clean water is a prerequisite to the sustainable growth and development of communities around the world.
Why women and not men?
Poor men suffer as well. But women have a crucial relationship with water, because of the sexual division of labour that has perpetuated “naturally” attributed social roles and functions to men and women. Where there is scarcity, women and girls are the stewards of water. For this reason universal access to water and sanitation is fundamental to free women from that burden and help them to access the labour market, therefore favouring women´s equality, dignity, and socioeconomic autonomy and emancipation.
Where there is scarcity, women and girls are the stewards of water. For this reason universal access to water and sanitation is fundamental to free women from that burden.
Where are the major tensions?
They are many. For example, mining corporations need water to make bare rock give up its valuable minerals. During 2005, an estimated 4,020 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) were withdrawn for mining purposes in the USA. Mining companies are the major water polluters and are beneficiaries in many countries of generous tax incentives, income tax holidays and other concessions, to attract companies to invest. For PSI, such contradictions are unacceptable.
A recent joint study of Christian Aid, ActionAid International, Third World Network Africa, Tax Justice Network Africa and Southern Africa Resource Watch, shows the extent to which mining companies routinely deprive African countries of huge amounts of tax revenue. In Central and South America the tensions are also intensified by the increase of land and water conflicts with mining companies, women one more time are the most affect, but in parallel they are in the frontline of the resistance. Here are some examples:
In 2016, in Guatemala in San Jose del Golfo, the community was concerned that the mining project would not only lead to the destruction of their land, but their water as well. Women organized barricades in a movement called La Puya which has enormous credibility inside and outside the country.
In Central and South America the tensions are also intensified by the increase of land and water conflicts with mining companies, women one more time are the most affect, but in parallel they are in the frontline of the resistance.
In the south of Ecuador a military operation of 2000 soldiers proceeded to evict the residents of the Shuar community of Nankints. Women’s Front & Defenders of Pacha Mama (Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama), are resisting the forced displacement that is occurring because of the proliferation of mining projects in the country.
In Honduras, in July 2016, the death of Lesbia Yaneth a defender of the community rights and opponent of the granting of concessions and privatization of rivers in La Paz,” member of Copinh, the same organization of which was also member Berta Cáceres, who last year won the prestigious Goldman environmental prize, was also shot dead in her home in March after receiving dozens of death threats related to her opposition to the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River, which she said was being constructed without the consent of the local populations.
What are you challenging?
We urge transparency, social remedy, fiscal and environmental accountability of mining companies. We need that lost money and all the wasted water, for our people, particularly for children and women, for our communities and for our ecology. We stand for public funding of public quality water and sanitation services for all.
*This interview is also part of PSI's engagement in the Global Alliance for Tax Justice Global Days of Action for #Tax Justice for Women's Rights