Every day, millions of women and children around the world walk an average of 3.7 miles in order to collect water that’s often unclean and unsafe for consumption by their families. These millions of women and children spend a collective 125 million hours a day collecting water—only to return to their homes where they labor to ensure the health and well-being of their entire families.

Sustainable relief

Microfinance solves this crisis through entrepreneurship—not aid. It tackles the systemic problem—not just the immediate need. It’s sustainable and it means that the people we serve and partner with have more control over how the problem gets solved, so that the end result is right for them.

This focus on innovative financial models challenges the traditional aid system, because real change doesn’t come from aid alone; it comes from sustainable change, driven largely by empowering and working with local women to see what’s needed, what works and what resources can be put to the best use.     

“Around the world, fewer than 1 in 3—2.4 billion—has access to a toilet. In many countries, it is not acceptable for a woman to relieve herself during the day.”

Fighting for equality

Women also struggle most from the lack of adequate sanitation, the often unspoken part of the water and sanitation crisis. The sanitation crisis for women can be summed up in one word: “dignity.” Around the world, fewer than 1 in 3—2.4 billion—has access to a toilet. In many countries, it is not acceptable for a woman to relieve herself during the day. They wait hours for nightfall just to have privacy. This impacts health and puts their safety at risk.

Excitingly, we have seen women around the world come together to address their needs for water and sanitation. Their strength and courage transforms communities. With the support of local partners, women organize their communities to support a well and take out small loans for household water connections and toilets. They support one another and share responsibility. These efforts make an impact, taking us one step closer to ending the global water crisis.

Working cooperatively across sectors and implementing organizations is the optimal strategy for accelerating the achievement of these objectives. To accomplish this, we must actively push for formal partnerships among government stakeholders, corporate sponsors, financial organizations and select water supply and sanitation institutions that: share this commitment; attain ample resources to operate at scale; and execute on that vision to achieve enormous impact in terms of broad, systemic change. Together we hope to build a stronger, faster and better model of progress.