6k Walk for Water

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs 
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
April 27, 2011

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Date: 04/27/2011 Location: Washington, DC Description: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Otero lifts a 55 pound, 6 gallon jerry can of water. Women in the developing world usually carry two of these on their 6K walk for water! © State Dept Image/Inna Pletukhina

Thank you for coming out on this beautiful spring day to participate in this first-ever 6 k Walk for Water in celebration of Earth Day.

I see that many of you have bottles of water with you in case you get thirsty. That’s important on a warm spring day like today and I’d ask that you all please remember to recycle your bottles.

Clean, fresh water is the world’s most essential commodity, and yet we take it for granted. I doubt many of us had to walk vey far to fill up our water bottles. Nor did we stare at our kitchen faucet in awe and gratitude this morning as we were making tea or coffee. And yet, the resource that runs freely for us kills some 5,000 children every day—due to dirty water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

While nearly a billion people worldwide live without access to clean water, the crisis disproportionately affects women and girls. On average, women in developing countries walk 6 kilometers a day to collect water.

The effects of this crisis reach far beyond the physical hardship of collecting water. It keeps girls out of school and women from other, more productive economic activities.

But there is hope. Women are not just victims—they are change agents and their own best advocates. When women and girls are involved in decisions about the use of water resources, they find innovative ways to create economic opportunities that can dramatically improve their health, access to education, personal empowerment, and living conditions for their families.

The United States is working to make solutions like this possible around the world and is among the world’s leading bilateral donors in the water sector. We know, however, that we cannot do this alone. 

That is why on World Water Day last month, Secretary Clinton signed a Memorandum of Understanding among the State Department, the World Bank, USAID, and more than a dozen other agencies declaring a mutual commitment to collectively address the growing water crisis and find long-term sustainable solutions to this daunting challenge.

But our partnerships extend beyond the U.S. government and the World Bank. The non-profit community is a key player in solving water issues and I’d like to take a moment to recognize them. I’d particularly like to recognize WASH Advocacy, based here in Washington, who helped in the organization and promotion of this event. WASH and the many other NGOs represented here are our critical collaborators and partners in solving the water problems around the world.

So today, we come together – U.S. government employees and their family members, NGO representatives, students, media, diplomatic community, and interested citizens – to walk in the footsteps of the millions of women developing world who collect water each day.

We walk so that children no longer die from preventable water related diseases, girls no longer fear going to school for the lack of a toilet and no woman has to spend most of their day collecting water for her family. We walk towards a future in which women will no longer have to walk six kilometers every day to find the water that fuels their survival and growth. Thank you for walking with me!