Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation
20 October 2022
Delivered by Helen Inga S von Ernst
We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report.
Iceland firmly believes that safe drinking water and sanitation is not only a human right but also central to living a life in dignity. Safe access to water also provides foundations for gender equality and sustainable livelihoods.
The impacts of climate change on the human rights to water and sanitation of rural communities are increasingly evident.
Unfortunately, women and girls, especially those living in rural areas, are also disproportionately affected by lack of access to quality water and sanitation. This has been an aspect of Iceland’s contribution in our development cooperation where the provision of clean water and sanitation for poor communities in our partners countries have been provided.
Discriminatory norms and structures, gender stereotypes, and stigma and taboos related to menstruation and child-birth also seriously affect the realization of the right to water and sanitation.
Women and girls living in rural areas often bear the responsibility and hard work of ensuring safe water and sanitation at home. Effects of climate change and conflicts are increasingly forcing them to walk longer distances to fetch water. With this, the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, discrimination and exploitation and lack of autonomy increases.
However, it is clear as you mentioned in your report, that despite women’ and girls’ irrefutable live-saving water role, they are still often marginalized in debates and decision-making processes and their effective participation is not guaranteed. This must change.
Mr. Special Rapporteur, what more can be done to guarantee that women and girls, especially those living in rural areas, are at the decision-making table?