Women and girls are more affected than most men and boys by issues of water quantity and quality and access to toilets. From childbirth to education to domestic responsibilities to dignity and safety, access to water, potable water and sanitation, and the ability to properly manage personal hygiene have very real impacts on women’s lives around the world. Securing better access to water for their multiple uses, adequate sanitation, and the resources required for personal and domestic hygiene are essential for enabling women and girls to devote more time to activities such as education and income generation.

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According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, millions of women around the world continue to experience discrimination due to unequal access to land, property and housing. Furthermore, the economic and social discrimination that women face results in fewer and poorer life choices for women.

For expectant mothers, access to WASH means reduced risk of maternal mortality, preventable child deaths, and improved newborn health. For young girls, access to appropriate WASH facilities means privacy during menstruation and increased school attendance. For all women, it reduces the risk of violence or harassment when they have to travel to fetch water, share toilets or defecate in the open and it increases women’s dignity and self-esteem.

Women need to be included in decision-making, both on environmental justice and on all other issues. Concerning sustainability and environmental degradation, women often suffer more due to their large share in the world’s poorest population, which is often dependent on their environment for their income, their general responsibility in large parts of the world for the production and preparation of food, the cleaning and the collection of fuel, and their lack of protection from natural disasters.

When included in decision making, women prove to be agents of change for the better for all.