News / 23 March 2020

Women in Latin America claim their right to water

In many places in Latin America, access to clean water is under great pressure from overuse and pollution, often caused by large-scale agriculture or mining. This has significant impact, especially on women. In March, with International Women's Day on March 8 and World Water Day on March 22, they make themselves heard and claim their right to water.

This month women's groups from various countries in South and Central America are running their "We, Women Are Water" campaign. They share stories in which women play a leading role in defending the right to water and in protecting and managing water resources. In this way, they hope to convince local, national and regional actors to make the right to water for all a priority, and also to listen to the wishes and needs of women when managing water.

Women in the front line of the fight for water

The women's groups have plenty of examples that show the impact of lacking access to water has on them, but also how women in many places take the lead in the fight for inclusive and sustainable water management.

A wonderful example is given by the group "Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local", which has achieved the participation of more women in local water management in Suchitoto, El Salvador. At the same time, the women of this collective ask their municipality to do more to guarantee the right to water for everyone, including women, and to support civil society organizations and the population.

In Oruro, Bolivia, women from the "Chimpu Warmi" group have set up a working group to investigate the impact of mining on Lake Poopó. Oruro has traditionally been a mining area and the Bolivian government has imposed few restrictions on this sector, causing many water sources to become polluted and communities dependent on them to leave. The women of Chimpu Warmi use their data to encourage the government to take measures to protect Lake Poopó, which is important for them.

International influence

Often the water-related problems are caused by international actors, such as mining companies, investors in infrastructure projects or large-scale agriculture. As is the case of the Ixquisis region, Guatemala. Despite a clear "no" from the indigenous communities, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) financed a series of dams in the area. A group of women has taken the lead in the struggles with the bank and has filed a complaint, asking for the investments to be withdrawn. In addition, they also request that the bank further tighten its policy and its implementation, in order to prevent these kinds of things from happening elsewhere in the future.

GAGGA: cooperation strengthens women's and environmental groups

All of these women, and many others, are part of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action. This alliance focuses on cooperation between women's and environmental organizations. Together they stand stronger in their fight for often the same things: access to water, sustainable land use, or clean air. By participating in GAGGA, the groups that are now running this joint campaign have been able to learn from each other and feel that they are not alone.

Access to water and the Corona virus

As the "We, Women Are Water" campaign just got underway, the severity of the global health crisis caused by the corona virus COVID-19 became apparent. Measures taken against this virus are also affecting the women's and environmental organizations that have launched this campaign. However, they have decided to continue. Because, according to this joint statement, the fight against corona - washing your hands with soap is one of the main measures - shows how important access to water is for everyone.

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