This World Water Day, we celebrate an exciting milestone: Through the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance we’ve empowered 1.5 million people to improve their access to water and sanitation in India. In our sixth and final year of the program, we are seeing strong momentum to reach our ambitious goal to empower 2 million people—half of whom are women—to improve their water access by 2023.
Guided by Gap Inc.’s north star to be Inclusive, by Design, we see Enriching Communities as a core part of our responsibility and ambition to drive a more sustainable future for people and planet. In India, this has come to life through the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance, a public private partnership that aims to catalyze women as agents for change to improve water access in their communities.
Building water resilience in communities touched by the apparel value chain is of great importance to our business, which relies on cotton—a very thirsty crop. Water resiliency and women’s empowerment are inextricably linked: on average globally, a woman living in a water-stressed area walks 1.2 miles each way to a water source, multiple times per day, to collect water for her family. Our Women + Water Alliance partnership involves key partners who each leverage a unique angle to create lasting solutions to rural water challenges in India: CARE, which facilitates Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. life skills and self-efficacy program to empower women to advocate for their water needs; WaterAid, which focuses on local governance and community participation in creating village water security plans; Water.org, which catalyzes financing to help women take out loans for in-home water access and sanitation improvements; and ISC, which trains cotton farmers to adopt more sustainable practices and water stewardship in their fields. Evaluation partners ICRW and I4DI also support the Women + Water Alliance through program evaluation.
Gap Inc.’s commitment to water stewardship runs deep. As a founding member of the UN Global Compact’s Water Resilience Coalition, we have made ambitious commitments to work towards net positive water impact and a water resilient value chain by 2050. We are developing the next phase of our water strategy across the business, both to address our water footprint of apparel production and to continue to look outside the walls of our own supply chain to strengthen ecosystems and community water resilience to support the health of the environments we rely upon for our business and the well-being of the communities touched by our industry.
To guide our future strategy, we are working with WWF to prioritize water-stressed regions along our value chain to concentrate our water stewardship activities and set new context-based water targets for manufacturing. We also engaged more than twenty leading water experts to gather feedback on our preliminary water strategy across raw materials, manufacturing, and customer communities through a roundtable discussion facilitated by Ceres.
Looking forward, we plan to build upon these expert insights, our strong foundation of community water resilience work from the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance, and our water saving practices in manufacturing as we pursue a path to building a more water resilient value chain.