The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

John Sauer, Water Advocates
(202) 293-4003

Dear Secretary Clinton: 'Women of the World Need Safe Water'


In an unprecedented letter of concern to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, prominent women have urged enhanced U.S. leadership to reduce the burden on women from inadequate drinking water and sanitation in developing countries. The Secretary of State received the letter between International Women's Day (March 8) and World Water Day (March 22) to emphasize this critical linkage.

It is the first time that women in America have come together from such diverse fields - non-governmental, corporate, philanthropic, environmental and entertainment - to advocate the global importance of safe water and sanitation from a women's perspective.

In their letter, the women leaders urged Secretary Clinton to take five actions that would make this issue a higher priority in U.S. foreign policy:

* appoint high-level advocates for water in the U.S. State Department and USAID
* commit U.S. leadership on the world stage
* significantly increase funding
* complete the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act Strategy
* hire qualified field staff

The prominent women leaders characterized the global lack of water and sanitation as an urgent, but solvable, development challenge. Nearly one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people do not have a safe place to dispose their excreta or a place to wash their hands. Women and their children bear the most severe burden from this crisis.

"If safe drinking water were accessible," says the letter, "women would not waste 40 billion hours annually fetching water from distant and contaminated sources. Only with safe water will women and their families have a chance to live without debilitating water-borne diseases (such as cholera, typhoid, and amoebic dysentery). Only then will they free their time to engage in income-generating activities, education, and caring for their families."

Sanitation, a typically ignored women's issue, is central to the women's message. The letter points out that "latrines enhance girls' attendance at school (especially once at the age of menstruation). They would provide dignity to the one billion women who otherwise defecate in the open, and reduce direct exposure to disease-causing pathogens."

Proven techniques and technologies are readily available to provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Experienced developmental organizations stand ready to increase their work with the U.S. government around the world. The letter also calls upon Secretary Clinton to encourage public-private partnerships to solve this global crisis and improve the condition of women and children worldwide.

"It is often forgotten how important water is to women's lives," emphasized Andra Tamburro of the non-profit organization, Water Advocates. "Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is an essential step to empowering women."

The signers include the following:

Harriet Babbitt

Vice Chair of the Global Water Challenge; Former Deputy Administrator, USAID

Kathy Baczko

Carol Bellamy

President & CEO, World Learning

Frances Beinecke

President, NRDC

Katryn Bowe

Water Advocates

Sally Cowal

Senior Vice President and Chief Liaison Officer, PSI

Patricia Dandonoli

CEO of WaterAid America

Monica D. Ellis

President & CEO, Global Environment & Technology Foundation

Helene Gayle

President & CEO of CARE

Molly F. Greene

Founder, Chief Philanthropy Officer

Water Missions International

Sherri Goodman

Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security)

Patricia Hall

President & Founder, H2O for Life

Ashley Judd

Nicole Lee

Executive Director, TransAfrica Forum, Inc.

Lee Lysne

Executive Director, Kind World Foundation

Tanvi Nagpal

Director, Water and Sanitation Initiatives, Global Water Challenge

Melanie Nakagawa

Attorney, International Program, NRDC

Michaela Oldfield

Water Advocates

Rachel Posner

Assistant Director, Global Water Futures Project

Jeannine B. Scott

Senior Vice President, Africare

Jane Seymour

Willa Shalit

Founder & CEO, Fair Winds Trading, Inc.

Mrs. Paul Simon

Andra Tamburro

Water Advocates

Christine Todd Whitman

President, The Whitman Strategy Group; Former Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency

Water Advocates is the first US-based nonprofit organization dedicated solely to increasing American support for worldwide access to safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and adequate sanitation.