Australia committed to share water management expertise

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BY GEORGINA KEKEA

Where shower facilities lack privacy and cleanliness, girls and women prefer to attend to their hygiene needs at home

WITH the increase of preventable diseases, a timely research was conducted in 2016 on the menstrual hygiene management in the Pacific.

Titled the Last Taboo: Research on menstrual hygiene management in the Pacific, the report speaks volumes of the challenges women and girls in the Solomon Islands are faced with in regards to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

The report revealed that WASH facilities in schools, workplaces and public places are inadequate to meet the needs of menstruating girls and women.

Challenges includes lack of water for handwashing and personal hygiene, poorly maintained facilities lacking in privacy, lack of available options for the safe disposal of soiled sanitary items.

Inadequate WASH facilities contribute to unhygienic menstrual management practices (such as improper disposal of soiled materials), or the preference to return home to change soiled materials- and is likely a factor in absenteeism.

For Solomon Islands, women and girls aged 15-54 years makes up more than 27 percent of the total population.

Water, sanitation and hygiene access is some of the lowest in the region with only 54 percent of the population have access to basic water sources and only 13 percent have access to basic sanitation.

This study revealed how managing menstruation hygienically, effectively and with dignity can be challenging for girls and women in low and middle-income countries like Solomon Islands.

From research gathered in the report it is evident that government, communities, school authorities, stakeholders and employers needs to increase their support and understanding to provide basic WASH facilities for women and girls.

On the outset, Australia in its 2017 Foreign White Paper Policy has promised to share its water management expertise to help enhance agricultural productivity, improve health outcomes, strengthen economies and reduce poverty.

Also through the membership of its Prime Minister in the United Nations/World Bank High Level Panel on Water, Australia is optimistic that it will be able to assist its neighbours in this initiative.

In the White Paper, Australia says it will deliver $100 million ‘Water for women’ programme over seven years (2017 – 2024).

This is to improve water access, sanitation and hygiene practices across the Indo-Pacific region.

The ‘Water for Women’ programme is in response to evidence that gender approaches to WASH can contribute more effectively and be sustainable in WASH outcomes as well as improvements in women’s and girls’ well-being and offer an entry point to facilitate changes in gender relations, norms and attitudes.

Gender equality and social inclusion are central to the Water for women programme.

This will help ensure that women and girls have equal opportunity, representation, work and involvement in WASH programs, and benefit equally from their outcomes.

Advancing gender equality through implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – the Water Goal – will see a world where women and girls do not bear the time burden of walking long distances every day to collect water for their families, where fewer babies die as a result of mothers giving birth in unhygienic health care facilities and girls no longer miss school because there are no appropriate menstrual hygiene management services.

The Water for Women Fund will work with civil society organisations (CSO) on innovative ways to improve water, sanitation and hygiene, focusing on women, girls and people with disabilities in the poorest human settlements. The Fund will also support a WASH research programme.

The Water for Women programme is part of Australia’s commitment to the High Level Panel on Water.

The High Level Panel on Water is committed to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all which is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

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