November 8, 2021
The public-private partnership between the USAID Gap Inc., the Women + Water Alliance, is excited to announce that we have empowered 1 million people to improve their access to clean water and sanitation and are making strong momentum to our goal of improving water access for 2 million people by 2023! This collective action initiative, which launched in 2017, aims to support the health and wellbeing of women and communities in two states in India where cotton is grown and textiles are manufactured. To help build community water resilience, Women + Water Alliance partners CARE, Water.org, WaterAid, and the Institute for Sustainable Communities work to help build women’s self-efficacy with trainings and resources to advocate for their water needs; improve awareness and access to water and sanitation; and train cotton farmers to incorporate water stewardship into their farming practices.
Our announcement today comes as the world is uniting in Glasgow to discuss climate change. The effects of climate change are already being felt everywhere, and they are most felt through water. Access to clean water not only connects us all but it is also a human right. Women, already disproportionately burdened by climate and, comprise 70% of our value chain. The majority of people who make our clothes are women, and access to and affordability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services is a major challenge for many women in our key sourcing countries. As women in those communities are largely responsible for household duties such as cooking, cleaning and collecting water, they bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to water stress, and often have to spend hours each day walking to collect water. This is especially true in India, an important location for both growing cotton and making textiles.
“As a company that is Inclusive, By Design, we take action across our value chain to empower women and enrich communities. The USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance blends our guiding social and environmental values through an integrated approach, connecting climate resilience, women, and the needs of underrepresented groups,” said Judy Adler, Head of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) at Gap Inc. “We’re thrilled that by catalyzing women as water champions, we have helped one million people improve their access to water to date, marking the halfway point to our ambitious 2023 goal.”
WaterAid and Water.org’s work has been instrumental in reaching this milestone to improve water access for 1 million people. At the household level, Water.org accelerates women’s access to sustainable WASH services through affordable financing. To date, Water.org has facilitated the disbursement of more than 40,000 affordable WASH loans. At the community level, WaterAid leverages local governance to improve water infrastructure and strengthen community drinking water management. WaterAid has developed more than 1000 Village Action Plans to improve local water access—all with women’s active participation and leadership in the process.
This work has a truly meaningful impact on the lives of women and their communities. Mrs. Pooja Doriya, a woman in the cotton-growing village of Jamgod in Madhya Pradesh, India, described how improved access to a water source has transformed her daily life. “From the time we have saved everyday by not walking for water, the women of the village and I can now spend that time with our families and take time out for ourselves too. With the time that we have left, we work in our farms, which has resulted in a growth in our incomes.”
At Gap Inc., we promote the health and wellbeing of women and communities, and we understand the direct linkage of access to water (both at home and work) and women’s economic empowerment. With increasing water scarcity impacting both availability and quality of water, there is a growing recognition that conserving, treating, and reusing water provides tangible economic benefits. Our initiatives to reduce and reuse water in manufacturing facilities combined with improving water access in communities along the supply chain will lead to more resilient communities and workforces.
Our business relies on water to grow cotton and manufacture fabric—there are no clothes without water. Our purpose, “Inclusive, by Design” guides our comprehensive view of sustainability which, at its heart, is about using the scale of our business and the influence of our brands to improve people’s lives and the communities in which we operate. Learn more about Gap Inc. partnerships specific to USAID and Women + Water Alliance here.