This week on Everywoman we look at women and the politics of water. The world is facing a water crisis. It is becoming an ever more precious commodity and the fight over access to it is becoming ever more fierce. The people most affected by the shortage are those who search for it, collect it, carry it, and eke it out among their families.

Clean water is essential for life, but across the world over a billion people do not have it. The global water shortage directly affects people's livelihoods and wellbeing. And it is a crisis that is getting worse.

Every year 2.2 million people die because of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. And, according to the UN two thirds of people on the planet will face some degree of water shortage by the year 2025.

But it is women who bear the brunt. Many in the developing world already spend most of their waking hours in search of clean water. Its scarcity impacts on household chores, child-rearing and food production.

Shiulie Ghosh is joined by Maude Barlow who is one of the world's leading experts on the politics of water. In her book Blue Gold she says: "Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations." She joins the show from Baltimore in the US.

The Search for Water in Tanzania

Everywoman went to Tanzania where the
search for water can take a whole day
People assume water is easy to get hold of in cities but, as we see in our film The Search for Water in Tanzania, sometimes the women had no idea when the supply would come back. And the report also demonstrates how competition for access to clean water can lead to local power struggles, even violence. Are governments in the developing world starting to challenge this commercialisation?

Everywoman met two women in Tanzania where the search for water can take a whole day for both urban and rural women.

In many parts of the world women are taking matters into their own hands and fighting for more control over access to clean water and better sanitation. 

Women of Narmada

One place where women have refused to back down over the issue of water is the Narmada River in India. A succession of dams constructed along the course of the river over the past two decades has displaced millions of people and deprived countless others of their main water source. The popular movement to regain control over precious water supplies is led by women. Everywoman went to Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh - the site of the most recent protest.

Shiulie is joined by two women who are actively seeking change; Marcia Brewster, an adviser to the Gender and Water Alliance, and Biraj Swain, a project research officer at WaterAid India who joins us from Delhi.

Watch this episode of Everywoman here:

Part One:

Part Two:

This episode of Everywoman aired from 17 August 2007.


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