By Aditi Bishnoi
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Thousands of women in the sprawling shantytowns outside of New Delhi face a long queue for a grimy toilet and dirty water. Even though the government recognizes women's special need for sanitation and water, no special provisions are made.
Researchers tried to calculate how much time and opportunity women lost as a result of poor infrastructure, given that women and girls are the ones primarily responsible for household water collection.
"We started by asking two questions: How much time does it take to access water and sanitation facilities; and whose time is it?" says Swapna Bist-Joshi, one of the study's authors.
During field visits, women told Bist-Joshi that if they had better facilities, the time they'd save could be spent with their children or even looking for ways to supplement their meager family income.
Bist-Joshi says the government would be wise to invest in improvements.
"They would translate into economic gains through a productive work force. There will also be a lesser need to invest in health care because illness caused by bad water and dirty surroundings can be controlled. But the biggest gender argument is that if women's lives are transformed, the lives of their families will automatically become better," she says.
In June, eight female community leaders in Bawana gathered signatures for a letter that outlined their local budgeting priorities, with better water and sanitation facilities at the top of the list.
The local politician in Bhalswa says more water pipelines are being laid. But if drains and roads are not also built, local women say they plan to add pressure about that too.
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Aditi Bishnoi is an associate editor with the New Delhi-based Women's Feature Service, the only features syndicate in India that produces articles with a gender perspective.
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