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20 posts categorized "Water/Sanitation/Hygiene (WASH)"

On World Water Day, Let's 'Toast to Water'

March 22, 2014

Today is World Water Day, the culmination of a week-long series of events coordinated by the United Nations and others to raise awareness of the global water crisis and, this year, the linkage between water and energy generation. Of course, the burden of the crisis is most keenly keenly felt by the estimated 960 million people around the globe – many of them in Africa – who live on less than $2 a day.

To appreciate the full weight of that burden, consider the following statistical portrait, which was put together by the folks at the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), a six-year, $30 million initiative of the Coca-Cola Company that aims to improve access to clean water for 2 million people in Africa by 2015:

Water is a common thread between many of the most pressing challenges facing the world today, undermining development around the world.

Global water and sanitation burden

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene and Health

The water crisis is an everyday reality for millions of Africans.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, yet they are the cornerstones of their communities.

Although the water crisis presents many challenges to global development now and in the future, water presents opportunities for global economic growth in the face of an emerging global middle class.

Leading companies are taking action in the water crisis.

Want to learn more? Join the Global Water Challenge, RAIN, the World Wildlife Fund, the McCann World Group, and others in a Toast to Water. And be sure to download this helpful list of water-saving tips.

The Smartest Investment We Could Make: The Future of Girls

March 13, 2014

(Dr. Anand K. Parekh is an adjunct assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and deputy assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. His family manages the Parekh-Vora Charitable Foundation.)

Girls_in_classroomAs the father of two young girls, there is no greater joy for me than to see them smile and thrive. This is why I often remember former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan’s words: "There is no policy for progress more effective than the empowerment of women and girls. A nation that neglects its children, especially girls, is a nation that neglects its future and development." Given this truth, the Parekh-Vora Charitable Foundation has initiated a focus on two areas particularly important to girls: water and sanitation, and primary school education.

We could have chosen many areas of need to focus on, so why girls, why water and sanitation, and why education?

To begin with, we were struck by the numbers: globally, 2.5 billion people live without basic sanitation, while 768 million people lack access to safe water. Every day, 2,000 children die from water-related diseases. And each year, 60 million children are born into homes without access to safe water and sanitation. It's estimated that improvements in these areas alone could vastly improve health outcomes, increase productivity, and reduce healthcare costs – while increasing a country's gross domestic product (GDP) by anywhere from 2 percent to 7 percent. Girls are disproportionately affected by the water and sanitation crisis, given that they frequently miss school or drop out altogether because of a lack of a private toilet in school. Tens of thousands of other girls and women spend hours at a time walking for miles while carrying water on their heads that can weigh up to forty pounds. Simply put, access to water, sanitation, and hygiene enables women and girls to take control of their lives.

The numbers around education are equally alarming: 793 million people worldwide are illiterate. Once again, girls and women are disproportionately affected and account for two-thirds of all illiterate persons. In the developing world, an estimated 42 percent of girls are not enrolled in school, while more than 60 million primary school-aged children of both genders do not have access to education and likely will never learn to read or write. The numbers are confounding, not least because we know that even a few years of basic education empowers women and girls to take control of their lives. Educated women are healthier (an extra year of  education for girls can reduce infant mortality by 5 percent to 10 percent) and earn more (an extra year of education boosts future wages by 20 percent). If every child were to receive an education, an estimated  171 million individuals would be lifted out of poverty.

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Data, Research, and Knowledge Tools — Where and When You Need Them

November 12, 2013

(Lisa Philp serves as vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center.)

Cover_media_impactEarlier today the Foundation Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Media Impact Funders, an affinity group of grantmakers, released a new report titled Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States (20 pages, PDF).

Headlines from the Research

As the most comprehensive and detailed picture of U.S. media-related funding by foundations to date, the research offers a number of new insights:

  • Media-related funding is substantial in size and scope -- 1,012 foundations made 12,040 media-related grants totaling $1.86 billion from 2009-11. If treated as a single category, media-related grantmaking would have ranked seventh in terms of domestic grantmaking in 2011, placing it just behind environment and ahead of science and technology, religion, and the social sciences.
  • Foundations increasingly are focused on media funding -- Media-related grantmaking grew at a faster rate than overall domestic grantmaking from 2009-11 (21 percent increase vs. 5.8 percent, respectively).
  • Funders are reacting to the changing landscape of media in the digital age -- New media investments (Web-based and mobile) outpaced those in traditional media (print, television, and radio) by a factor of four (116.5 percent increase vs. 29.4 percent, respectively).

These findings and many others will be discussed at a Media Impact Focus event on Wednesday, November 13, by a panel of media funders, filmmakers, journalists, and practitioners; analyzed in the coming weeks in blogs, columns, and op-ed pieces written by our project advisors and funders; and updated over time to track the story of how media grantmaking is evolving.

 

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Philanthropy and the Millennium Development Goals

September 27, 2013

(Bradford K. Smith is president of the Foundation Center.)

Headshot_brad-smith2New York has been abuzz this week with the reconvening of the United Nations General Assembly and the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, and in the streets, cafes and restaurants you can hear people from all over the world taking about "the MDGs." Those who circulate in the acronym-laden universe of international development know that "MDGs" are the Millennium Development Goals -- the ambitious blueprint developed by the United Nations in the year 2000 to make serious progress on the pressing challenges of global poverty, health, education, and environment.

By one measure, "MDGs" is hardly a buzz phrase among America's philanthropic foundations. I just did a quick keyword search of three years' worth of 990-PF tax returns for close to 90,000 foundations and found just seven in which the term "millennium development goals" appeared. Then I tried an "only foundations" Google search on Glasspockets and got 3.65 million results!

But what people usually want to know about foundations is how much money they have spent on a cause or issue. It says a lot that only once in the years since the Millennium Development Goals were established has the Foundation Center been asked to map foundation funding to the eight goals. So this being a week where the MDGs are being discussed everywhere, we decided to pull some very quick data for 2011.

Goal Amount No. of Grants No. of Fdns.
Eradicate extreme poverty $770,761,183 1,663 318
Achieve universal primary ed 42,756,909 294 80
Promote gender equality 223,768,315 312 56
Reduce child mortality 456,276,756 337 54
Improve maternal health 211,008,135 215 38
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, other diseases 1,572,823,543 426 48
Ensure environmental sustainability 534,927,086 1,747 224
Develop partnership for global dev 278,124,929 363 109

 

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Dilemmas of a Water Funder

July 29, 2013

(David Rothschild leads the Portfolio Team at the Skoll Foundation. His post below also appears on the WASHfunders.org blog.)

Headshot_david_rothschildWhat a moment! At an April press conference, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, held up a handwritten number and announced, "2030. This is it. This is the global target to end poverty."

That historic moment also served to underscore some of the dilemmas that I and other WASH (clean water, sanitation, and hygiene) funders grapple with. How do we establish audacious -- yet realistic -- goals? How do we announce an ambitious goal -- such as full water and sanitation coverage in a number of countries -- and have confidence that we have a reasonable chance of achieving it?

What should our role as funders be, if not to push boundaries? If we just continue to provide incremental progress, we may never solve this problem. If the president of the World Bank can put forth aggressive goals, then foundation funders can -- and should -- do the same. After all, moving the needle on the world's most pressing problems is a moral imperative.

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The Social Progress Index: Measuring What Counts?

April 30, 2013

Report-cover_SocialProgressIndexThe Washington, D.C.-based Social Progress Imperative made a splash at the Skoll World Forum earlier this month when it launched its Social Progress Index (SPI), an ambitious effort to inform and influence development policies around the globe.

Developed by Harvard Business School professor and competitiveness expert Michael E. Porter in collaboration with Scott Stern of MIT, the index is founded on the principle that "what we measure guides the choices we make." To that end, the index analyzes fifty-two outcome-based (as opposed to input-based) indicators in three dimensions of social progress: meeting basic human needs; establishing the foundations of well-being that enable individuals to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives; and creating opportunity for all to reach their full potential. (For a complete breakdown of indicators, click here.)

While the index and the report (154 pages, PDF) released in conjunction with the launch of the index includes only fifty countries, those countries represent three-quarters of the world's population. Here's a chart from the report that plots their aggregate SPI scores against GDP per capita (PPP):

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 16-17, 2013)

February 17, 2013

Presidents-Day2013Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Arts and Culture

On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, James Irvine Foundation president and CEO Jim Canales discusses the foundation's new arts strategy, which has received both positive and negative feedback from the nonprofit community. "I admire those who have stepped forward to criticize aspects of our strategy, whether they believe it is wrong on its merits or they view it as yet another example of 'strategic philanthropy' gone awry, where we are dictating and imposing our solutions upon the field," writes Canales. "That is certainly not out intention.

What is different for us in our new Arts strategy is that rather than continuing with a broad-based approach that funded projects across multiple objectives, we made the strategic decision to direct our finite resources in a way that, in our view, will best position the arts field for future viability and success. In doing so, we are openly expressing a point of view about how we think the field must evolve to ensure its dynamism and relevance. Yet, we are very clear about our willingness to learn with our partners in this effort, to refine our approach accordingly, and to help to advance the field's understanding of the many ways to engage a broader cross-section of Californians (in our case) in the arts....

So, please keep the ideas, observations and critiques coming. It's the best way to ensure we can achieve the end we all agree upon: a vibrant, relevant and successful arts field....

Fundraising

The Mertz Gilmore Foundation and NYU Wagner's Research Center for Leadership in Action have issued a new report, Beyond Foundation Funding: Revenue-Generating Strategies for Sustainable Social Change (84 pages, PDF), that's designed to aid social change organizations, funders, and technical assistance providers in discussing and implementing different fundraising and revenue-generating practices.

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks has a few choice words for fundraising consultants who show up at sector conferences with slick PowerPoint presentations designed to shame attendees into contracting their services, but who never, ever reveal whether the campaigns they are so proud of creating actually worked or not.

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WASHME: Making WASH Orgs Sustainable

December 12, 2012

The Foundation Center has been collecting collaboration stories for its Nonprofit Collaboration Database, a searchable collection of 670+ profiles that gets 2,000+ visits every month. And this one just came in. (Have a story you'd like to share? Learn more here.)

"Sustainability is one of the most pressing issues facing the WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) sector today. More than 30 percent of WASH projects fail after two to five years." -- Sustainability WASH Web site

In 2011, a group of NGOs, funders, and academics started to ask hard questions about the sustainability of their own programs and those of other organizations in the WASH sector. One result of that effort was Sustainable WASH, an online platform for assessing, learning about, and sharing best practices in the field.

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Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor…Your Grants Data

October 26, 2012

(Jeff Falkenstein is vice president of data architecture at the Foundation Center.)

Data-philanthropyTo say that Jeff Raikes' announcement of the launch of Markets for Good was big news is an understatement. Raikes' call to improve the philanthropic information infrastructure and support the quality of and access to data speaks to the core of the Foundation Center's mission and vision. The center, along with fifteen partner foundations, recently made a big announcement of its own when it launched the Reporting Commitment, a movement to improve the transparency of, and reduce duplication among, foundations through the adoption of common reporting standards and a consistent geographic taxonomy. Needless to say, these two developments have the potential to significantly impact the future of the philanthropic sector.

For over fifty years, the Foundation Center has aggregated information on U.S. foundations pulled from publicly available 990-PF tax returns, annual reports, press releases, foundation Web sites, and other information sources. In addition to offering this data through the Foundation Directory Online, the center features it in its many research reports and issue-based portals, and has taken steps to incorporate it into grants management software as well as reports and portals developed with a number of foundations and other partners. Much of the value the center adds to the information we collect comes from an intensive review of hundreds of thousands of grants made by foundations from around the world. The center also identifies the recipients of those grants: who they are, what they do, where they (generally) work, and which populations they (generally) serve. Additional analysis is done to understand the purpose of the grant, the subject area funded, the type of support provided, the specific population and geographic area served by the grant, and the strategy behind it.

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[Infographic] The Water-Rich vs. the Water-Poor

September 22, 2012

Our infographic of the week illustrates the disparity in water consumption between "water-rich" countries with plentiful access to clean water and "water-poor" countries with little or limited access to clean water. It was created by Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology (h/t WASHfunders.org).

 

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On Building Community Online: A 'Flip' Chat With Paull Young, Director of Digital, charity: water

July 31, 2012

(This video was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Helena Monteiro, executive director of the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support.)

There are currently 800 million people living without the very thing most of us take for granted: safe, clean drinking water.

Founded by former nightclub promoter Scott Harrison, charity: water has helped bring that precious commodity to two million people in the developing world. How? For starters, it has perfected the art of collaborating with local partners who know the language and customs of the target population and have mastered the logistical challenges of working in local communities.

The New York City-based nonprofit is also brilliant at fundraising and, largely through innovative digital outreach efforts like its birthday campaign, has raised more than $60 million for water projects in the developing world since it was founded in 2006.

What explains charity: water's phenomenal success? According to the organization's director of digital, Paull Young, it boils down to the following:

  1. Be positive. Powerful stories with positive messages are more effective than stories that make people feel guilty.
  2. Don't ask for money. What works with direct mail often doesn't work online. Instead of making an ask every time you communicate with your donors and supporters, give people a chance to learn about the "cool stuff" your organization is up to.
  3. Give. Raise. Influence. Focus on building relationships with your donors and supporters that enable them to see how they can maximize their ability to give, fundraise, and influence others over a period of years.
  4. Do it wrong quickly.
  5. Help donors and supporters see their impact. People are more generous if they understand clearly how their money is being used.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with Young before he addressed a 501 Tech NYC event about the organization's birthday campaign, the metrics it uses to evaluate its online fundraising efforts, and a few of the fundraising lessons he and his colleagues have learned over the years.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)

 

(Running time: 8 minutes, 8 seconds)

Have a thought or comment you'd like to share? Use the comments section below....

-- Regina Mahone

Innovation Forum 2012

June 26, 2012

We thought it would be fun (and interesting) to share the livestream of the Rockefeller Foundation's 2012 Innovation Forum, which is supposed to start around 12:45 EDT and is one component of the storied foundation's centennial celebration.

The forum is designed to explore solutions to pressing global challenges and this year will focus on ways of ensuring that the benefits of new technologies do not bypass the world's poor. To that end, the event will showcase cutting-edge inventions, convene thought leaders from different sectors, and feature discussions that explore opportunities to help those who are becoming more vulnerable due to pernicious economic, social, and environmental forces.


Live streaming by Ustream

Later this evening, the foundation will honor Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons Ltd.; Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the UK-based Portland Trust and Big Society Capital; and J. Carl Ganter, director and co-founder of Circle of Blue, an international network of journalists, scientists, and communications experts working to address and raise awareness of the global freshwater crisis, for their innovative work and philanthropy. And you can watch the whole thing from the comfort of your air-conditioned office.

World Water Day: A PubHub Reading List

March 22, 2012

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that examine racial/ethnic disparities in higher education.)

To help mark World Water Day, we searched PubHub for reports that discuss efforts to improve access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in the developing world -- efforts that in turn are linked to progress in the areas of health, education, and economic growth.

While the 2015 Millennium Development Goal target for halving the proportion of people who do not have access to safe drinking water has been met, according to a recent report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, the target for halving the proportion of those without access to basic sanitation has not. Moreover, the aggregate figures mask significant regional variations in the progress achieved to date. The two reports highlighted below explore the complex challenges of implementing and sustaining effective WASH-related interventions.

Wateraid_offtrackofftarget220 Off-Track, Off-Target: Why Investment in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Is Not Reaching Those Who Need It Most (68 pages, PDF), a report from WaterAid, notes that in sub-Saharan Africa the target for access to sanitation is so off-track that at current rates it will not be met for two centuries: "In developing countries, spending on water, sanitation and hygiene services is minimal compared to health and education, and the share of aid flows going to water and sanitation has fallen over the last 15 years." Not only does inadequate investment in WASH initiatives undermine progress in the areas of health and education, it also exacerbates already stark inequities in access to services between rich and poor, rural and urban areas, and for women-led households and other marginalized groups.

What are the reasons behind the slow progress toward WASH-related goals in the region? The report's authors lay the blame at the feet of multiple actors and causes:

Political priorities lead governments to favour other sectors, improve places already served, or exclude poor and marginalised groups. Inadequate information hampers policy-making and planning, and lack of transparency is an obstacle to good monitoring and scrutiny. Aid is not well coordinated, is only loosely targeted according to need, and its effectiveness is constrained by red tape and lack of alignment with government systems. The sustainability of services rarely receives the attention it requires. These factors in turn undermine weak capability to capture, absorb and spend funds effectively, and lead to a vicious cycle of low investment and poor performance....

The report calls on national governments, donors, and civil society to break the WASH-related "cycle of low investment and poor performance" by:

  • strengthening sector leadership;
  • making equity and sustainability the focus of service delivery;
  • substantially increasing funding, including government spending of at least 1 percent of GDP on sanitation programs and donor investments of $10 billion per year in the form of targeted grants (not loans);
  • targeting resources better on the basis of need;
  • using resources more effectively through increased flexibility on the terms of funding as well as coordination and alignment; and
  • improving transparency and financial reporting.

Fsg_washadvocacy220And what can we in the United States do to help improve access to clean water and basic sanitation in the developing world?  U.S. WASH Advocacy: Landscape Report (18 pages, PDF), a report from FSG, notes that while the U.S. government contributed more than $800 million to WASH-related initiatives in 2009, many past interventions have fallen short of their promise. In order to promote efficient, targeted use of funds, more effective advocacy efforts, and improved practice in the field, the authors recommend focusing on five interdependent goals:

  • increase the sustainability and effectiveness of WASH programs and services;
  • direct U.S. government and multilateral aid to populations most in need (sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia);
  • maintain current U.S. government funding for WASH-related initiatives;
  • push for greater funding from non-U.S. government donors (i.e., corporations, foundations, multilaterals, the general public), and highlight sanitation as a sub-strategy of broader WASH-related efforts; and
  • boost the quality of, demand for, and access to data across the WASH field.

According to the report's authors, a successful advocacy campaign targeting USAID, the State Department, Congress, the executive branch, multilateral agencies, foundations, and corporations would require a robust evidence base and experienced high-profile leadership. The report also recommends different approaches for each donor group:

Foundations -- Many foundations that fund in related areas (e.g., global health, environment, women's rights) do not prioritize WASH issues. There may be opportunities for high-level conversations and awareness-raising to increase the number of U.S. foundations that see WASH funding as a priority investment.

Corporations -- As more corporations come to see the alignment between WASH issues and their core business, WASH advocates should be proactive in engaging corporations as partners in WASH-related advocacy and interventions. The Global Water Challenge has done some work in this area, but with deeper cross-sector collaboration, corporations can become exponentially larger contributors to WASH issues in terms of their financial resources, as well as their products, services, and global reach.

Multilaterals -- While multilaterals likewise face funding constraints in today's slow-growth environment, even modest increases in development bank aid have the potential to create large impacts in the WASH field and should be pursued as a critical element of an overall WASH strategy.

The Public -- While awareness of WASH issues among the public is low and the infrastructure for raising funds inadequate, "clean water" is a highly resonant message when paired with effective marketing. The field should encourage and build on the efforts of organizations like charity: water and water.org to build public awareness of and support for WASH issues.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates, Conrad N. Hilton, and Howard G. Buffett foundations, the report's recommendations include strengthening leadership in the field, building and engaging broad coalitions, greater support for advocacy efforts, and improving data collection and dissemination.

If we are to meet the MDG target for access to basic sanitation and continue making progress on other WASH-related issues, governments, NGOs, donors, and local communities need to work together to target resources to regions with the highest need. This won’t happen overnight, but the steady increase in WASH-related support by U.S. foundations would suggest that we are moving in the right direction.

If you're interested in WASH-related issues and would like to learn more, take a look at these reports:

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than 170 reports related to water, sanitation, hygiene, and other global health issues.

-- Kyoko Uchida

How Are Foundations Tackling the Global Water Crisis?

(Seema Shah is director of research for special projects at the Foundation Center. She can be reached at [email protected].)

World_Water_Day_logo_2012It's World Water Day. And for those of us lucky enough to be able to take clean drinking water for granted, the numbers can be difficult to wrap our heads around. Nearly one billion people globally do not have access to safe water and more than two billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. The implications for the physical, economic, and educational well-being of communities, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, are far-reaching. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted during last year's World Water Day events, "The water crisis is a health crisis, it's a farming crisis, it's an economic crisis, it's a climate crisis, and increasingly, it is a political crisis."

Given the scope and scale of the crisis, what are foundations doing to address the situation?

A year ago, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which has a twenty-year history of supporting safe water initiatives, awarded a grant to the Foundation Center to create a Web portal that would serve as a data and information hub for grantmakers working on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues.

Launched in October, the portal, WASHfunders.org, seeks to promote greater coordination among established WASH funders, while also serving as a resource for new funders in the sector. The centerpiece of the site is a robust mapping tool that helps funders minimize duplication of effort by identifying other foundations that are working on similar issue areas or in the same geographic region. Funders visiting the site also are able to share lessons learned through case studies that highlight both challenges and successes in the WASH arena. And they can access the latest WASH-related research, aggregated in one place. All these resources are designed to help funders work more efficiently and effectively, allowing them to maximize the impact of their grant dollars. (In fact, the portal has become a model for funders working in other issue areas, as they seek to become more strategic and use data-driven decision making and peer-to-peer insights to strengthen their grantmaking.)

WASHfunders_chartIn conjunction with its work on WASHfunders.org and this week's World Water Day events, the Foundation Center has released a new research brief that summarizes foundation investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene. Among other things, our findings show that support for WASH issues has been on the rise since 2003. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of funders making WASH-related grants jumped from 24 to 78, and that growth was accompanied by a nearly five-fold increase in the number of organizations receiving grants. In 2009-2010, U.S. foundation funding for WASH issues totaled $144 million, up from $11 million in 2003-2004. At the same time, WASH funding, having grown from 0.2 percent in 2003 to 1.7 percent in 2010, remains a very modest portion of international giving by U.S. foundations overall.

The research brief also highlights the top funders of WASH initiatives. Among private foundations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues to be the largest funder of WASH programs, with the foundation's grantmaking comprising half of all WASH funding in 2009-2010. Among corporate foundations, the PepsiCo Foundation leads the way, awarding grants of more than $12 million in 2009-2010.

Philanthropic investments to address safe water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene education are poised to increase in the coming years, with several foundations, including the Margaret Cargill Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund, beginning to develop strategic initiatives focused on WASH issues.

Indeed, although the number of people lacking access to safe water and adequate sanitation is far too high, we are beginning to see evidence that the collective efforts of foundations, governments, and NGOs are making a difference. In fact, just last week UNICEF and WHO announced that the Millennium Development Goal for water had been met, the first of the MDG targets to be achieved.

For more data on foundation support for WASH issues, see the full research brief here. And feel free to use the comments section below to share how your organization is observing World Water Day.

-- Seema Shah

International Women’s Day: A Photo Essay

March 08, 2012

On this, International Women's Day, we are prompted to ask: To what extent is the global water and sanitation crisis largely a women's issue? After all, women almost exclusively shoulder the burden of water collection, suffer the most from lack of sanitation access and its resulting indignities, and, as primary caregivers, are affected the most when children fall sick with water-related diseases. Fully involving women in community water and sanitation programs, as WaterAid does, ensures that programs meet their needs. It also helps equip women with the skills and confidence they need to tackle other development challenges in their communities.

Written by Libby Plumb, senior communications advisor for WaterAid America, the post below reflects on and celebrates the role of women in the WASH crisis through photos. In her thirteen years with WaterAid, Plumb has undertaken a variety of roles in both the UK and U.S. and has visited many of the organization’s country programs. Plumb has a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of Oxford. A version of this post appears on the new FC-powered WASHfunders.org blog.

IWD_MOZ6_350

Credit: WaterAid/Eva-Lotta Jansson

The indignity of lacking somewhere private to go to the bathroom is particularly felt by women. In many cultures women have to wait until it is dark to relieve themselves, causing discomfort and sometimes illness. It can also expose women to the risk of both sexual harassment and animal attacks. In Sandimhia Renato's village in Mozambique, women have to cross an unstable bridge to go to the toilet. Some have drowned crossing in the dark or at high tide.

IWD_002A01

Credit: WaterAid/Abir Abdullah

The world’s poorest communities are generally male-dominated, so extra effort has to be taken to ensure that women are equally included in all stages of water and sanitation programs, including planning, construction, and decision-making. A lack of education for women in developing countries means that very few women can be decision-makers, yet enabling women's voices to be heard is a crucial step in development. Above, women are pictured making latrine slabs for a WaterAid sanitation program in Bangladesh.

IWD_MLW1-155

Credit: WaterAid/Jon Spaull

WaterAid helps to elevate women's status in society by giving them positions of responsibility in the water committees established to manage new water supplies. Zeinabu Kayisi (above), chairperson of a village water committee in the Salima District of Malawi, told us: "Being able to maintain the pump myself makes me feel independent and strong!"'

IWD_LPE_377

Credit: WaterAid/Libby Plumb

WaterAid often chooses women to become hygiene educators. Zubeyda Gudeta (pictured above), helping women wash their hands before eating at a wedding reception, works as a hygiene promoter for WaterAid in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. She told us, "There has been a great change since the WaterAid project. Before this, some people didn't wash their things like food containers. Now they wash their pots and plates three times. Now, people are healthier in this area than in other areas."

IWD_UG49-460

Credit: WaterAid/Caroline Irby

A safe water source makes everyday household tasks much easier. More importantly, mothers and expectant mothers, like Sila Adeke from the Katakwi District of Uganda (above), no longer fear for the health of their children. "The borehole is much closer so I can fetch more water than before. Washing clothes is so easy now and I can use a whole jerry can for washing plates. The rate of illness is much lower. With this new source my child will grow up healthy and I am not concerned that it will grow sick."

IWD_IN23_0943

Credit: WaterAid/Jon Spaull

The privacy that comes with safe, clean bathrooms is especially important for women with disabilities for whom leaving the house is more challenging. Suffering from impaired vision, Rukhmani Devi from India (above) is pleased her family now has a private latrine: "When I had my eye operation [for cataracts], I realized just how convenient having a latrine is, as before I would have had to go to the fields. Life is good now, as before people would be able to see us using the fields and we weren't able to relax -- instead we were always alert and worried."

IWD_Nig3_305

Credit: WaterAid/Suzanne Porter

When women are freed from having to spend hours each day collecting water, they have more time available for other activities that can help them to escape poverty. Mary Chukle (above) from Takkas in Nigeria credits the new water supply with enabling her to open a business: "Before we got the well, we had to trek down to the river with the children and it took up to two hours. Because of the time I save now from getting water the old way, I was able to work more and apply for a loan to buy a small village shop which I now run."

Do you have a story about how women are meeting development challenges in their communities? Feel free to share in the comments section below...

-- Libby Plumb

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