Mar 282008

“International Women’s Day, 8 March 2008, marks the launch of PSI’s ‘Water, Women and Workers’ campaign. This two-week campaign will emphasise the vital importance of access to safe, publicly funded water supplies to sustainable development, gender equality and a decent life for all – especially women. The days of action will continue until 22 March, International Water Day.

The ‘Water, Women and Workers’ campaign highlights the importance of access to water as essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In many developing countries, women and girls walk on average six kilometres each day to fetch water. They carry around 20 kilograms of water a day. Apart from the sheer physical toll, this is time they do not spend on other activities, such as school and paid work.

Peter Waldorff, General Secretary of PSI says, “If women only have time to focus on daily survival, they cannot build the necessary skills or engage in productive activity to help move themselves and their families out of poverty. They cannot enjoy a decent standard of life. This is why, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, public sector unions around the world are calling on governments to reaffirm their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and to reduce by half the number of people without access to water by the year 2015”.

It is unethical that persons or institutions get rich from the sale of water while 1.8 million children die each year because they do not have access to safe water and sanitation”, continues Waldorff.

The facts look grim. In 2007 around 1.1 billion people, or 17% of the world population, lacked access to safe water. Over 2.6 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation. An estimated 3 million people, most of them children, died from preventable diseases associated with contaminated water. Millions more suffered from waterborne diseases. And changes to weather patterns caused by global warming are making a dire situation worse. As the environment deteriorates, women become increasingly vulnerable.

Public service workers are committed to changing this situation for the better. Their experience needs to be incorporated into strategic management and decision-making. They are frontline experts with hands-on knowledge of how to improve management and delivery of quality water services. They know which systems can be improved and how resources can be used more effectively. They are the closest both to production and citizens.

In many countries, women trade union activists of PSI affiliates play significant roles in water campaigns and in developing new forms of water service management. Trade union expertise and solidarity are successfully leading campaigns to win back privatised water services which are failing women and communities; to make sure that water services remain in public hands; and to ensure that water is regarded as a human right and not just another commodity.

In Colombia, access to water is a major issue for women both in rural and urban areas. The Andean Region Permanent Committee for the Defence of Water has agreed to launch the campaign for a constitutional right to water in Colombia during the 8-22 March days of action on ‘Water, Women and Workers’. In Cali, the PSI affiliates SINTRAEMCALI, SINTRACUAVALLE, SINTRAEMSDES and SINTRAEMSIRVA will join with local community associations in a campaign to collect signatures for a referendum, reports Agripina Hurtado, from the PSI Colombia women’s committee.

In Germany, Ver.di, a PSI affiliate which also covers utilities, organised a major conference on women and water, together with a number of women’s environmental organisations, calling for recognition of the human right to water, reported Vera Morgenstern from Ver.di’s Equality Department and member of PSI World Women’s Committee.

In El Salvador, the General Secretary of the Electricity Union, Roxana Deras, explained that water privatisation could have an extremely negative impact on access, capacity to pay and the environment. “We need worldwide solidarity and collective action. That’s why PSI’s campaign is so important. The constitutional right to water has been won in some countries, notably in Uruguay with the support of the water union FFOSE. Water access is an essential stepping stone to gender equality and social justice”.

Public Services International is a global union federation made up of over 650 trade unions. It represents more than 20 million workers who deliver public services in 160 countries around the world. It is estimated that 65% of its members are women.

For more information, contact or visit for more information about the campaign.”

 March 28, 2008  Posted by on March 28, 2008

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