Ending the Cycle of Water Inequality By Margaret Trudeau

Margaret Trudeau’s interest in global water issues is not a fleeting one — it has been cultivated over nearly four decades and is fueled by a deep sense of purpose. Although Margaret`s repertoire of knowledge on the subject is vast, it is the matter of women and girls’ access to clean drinking water that has captured her heart. In this exclusive Mother`s Day tribute, Margaret reflects on the glimmers of hope that she has witnessed in Africa through her work with Canadian charity WaterCan, and all that remains to be done to ensure universal water and sanitation access for women and girls everywhere.

I am absolutely convinced that it will be the women who turn the tide on poverty in the developing world. But, for all of their courage, compassion and ingenuity there is a major stumbling block that consistently hinders their chances of success: Access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

In a world where women are breaking records, blazing trails and shattering glass ceilings, I can`t help but imagine the greatness that could be unleashed if every woman and girls’ right to clean water and sanitation were realized.

Through my work and travel with WaterCan, I have seen glimmers of hope and a foreshadowing of what is possible through simple and cost effective water and sanitation projects.

On one trip to Uganda I met a woman who, now spared daily walks to a distant water hole, had begun to grow and sell vegetables. With the money she made, she bought herself a sewing machine and was making cloths for local residents. Access to clean water not only improved community health, it empowered the women. At the end of the day, that which gives women new prospects and confidence is good for their families, communities and ultimately the world.

In 2006 my daughter-in-law Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and I took and emotional journey to Ethiopia with WaterCan, a Canadian charity committed to helping the world’s poorest people gain access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation. – Margaret Trudeau

“It is women who walk many kilometers to fetch water each day, suffering under the heavy load. It is women who are expected to ration the supply and take turns keeping animals away that might spoil the source. It is women who forego an education and empowering activities because there simply is no time. It is women for whom the threat of rape is all too real during the dry season when water is elusive and long distances are traveled through isolated areas. It is women who tend to the sick and dying.

On my second trip to Uganda with WaterCan, I opened a well in the memory of my son Michel. Overcome by tears, I was comforted by the women present. We shared a common sorrow, as many of their own children had died of disease caused by water and sanitation-related illness. From African women, mothers, I learned many lessons on my road to recovery. My work with WaterCan is an opportunity to give back, and although the need is great, I know that water is the start.

Over the past 27 years WaterCan, with the help of countless caring Canadians, has created over 1.2 million success stories — children, women and men whose lives have been dramatically transformed though improved access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation.

However, the challenge ahead of us remains great. Due to increased urbanization, rapidly growing populations, increasing competition for finite water resources and the effects of climate change, over 768 million people today continue to lack clean drinking water while triple this number — 2.5 billion — lack proper sanitation. We also need to redouble our efforts to address the persisting inequalities between men and women, which result in women suffering disproportionately from this crisis.

It is the magnitude of this challenge coupled with our insatiable desire to effect even greater change that has inspired WaterCan to join forces with WaterAid, the world`s leading water and sanitation charity. By becoming the Canadian member of WaterAid, WaterCan will now be able to have a much, much larger poverty-fighting impact. Simply put: we will be able to do more good for more people in more places!

WaterAid`s vision is a bold and ambitious one, and if achieved it will unleash the potential of women and girls in the developing world, dramatically accelerate progress in the fight against global poverty. WaterAid`s vision to is ensure that everyone everywhere has access to clean water and sanitation by 2030. I am placing myself fully behind this vision and hope that you will join me. I know that in a small but fundamental way each of us can make a difference, and that those small acts can amount to enormous change.

This Mother`s Day, as I am surrounded by loving children and grandbabies, I will be thinking of my sisters in Africa and elsewhere around the world. My commitment will not waiver until each and every one of them has access to clean water and sanitation.

Please join us at www.wateraidcanada.com