We believe access to water is a human right, and yet decreasing availability of clean water is a significant challenge in many parts of the world. Today, a third of the world’s population live in countries with poor water quality or where there is not enough water.
The water crisis is particularly acute in many of the apparel industry’s key sourcing countries and cotton-growing communities. 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 those regions. At the same time, women bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to water stress, and often must spend hours each day walking to collect water. This is especially true in India, an important location for both growing cotton and making textiles.
Through the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance we aim to empower 2 million people—including 1 million women—with improved access to water and sanitation in communities touched by the apparel industry in India
As of January 2023
We exceeded our goal to reach 2 million people with improved access to water and sanitation since 2017
Empower 5 million people touched by the apparel industry to improve and sustain their access to clean water and sanitation
We have reached 2.4 million people with improved access to clean water and sanitation.
As part of our holistic water stewardship strategy, we are focused on more than just using water more efficiently and reducing our water impacts. We also invest in building water resilience in the communities we reach—with an emphasis on working directly with the women who are most disproportionately affected by the world’s water crisis.
Alongside strategic partners, we provide water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) education through our P.A.C.E. programs, improved access to services, WASH financing to women and communities, and trainings for cotton farmers to adopt water stewardship best practices in their fields. Within Gap Inc. partner facilities, our Code of Vendor Conduct requires that key WASH needs of garment workers are met. In addition, our P.A.C.E. workplace and community programs bring WASH education to women globally.
Our approach to community water resilience began with our six-year, public-private partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): The Women + Water Alliance, which aims to empower 2 million people—including 1 million women—to improve their access to water and sanitation by 2023.
Our activities focus on a key cotton-growing and textile-manufacturing regions in India: the Godavari, Narmada and Ganges-Brahmaputra river basins in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. In these water-stressed regions, households spend an average of 1.5 hours per day fetching water and are missing out on approximately 9 percent of monthly income potential due to a lack of access to water and sanitation, according to the Women + Water baseline assessment.
Together with our implementing partners—CARE, WaterAid, Water.org, Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) —we are supporting these communities’ access to clean water and sanitation and helping women gain the skills to manage local water resources sustainably. The P.A.C.E. life skills and self-efficacy program, with its WASH curriculum, is designed to support women with leadership skills as they take initiative to improve water infrastructure in their communities. Partners activate women and other community members to engage in local governance and creating village water security plans; catalyze financing to help women take out loans for in-home water access and sanitation improvements; and train cotton farmers to adopt more sustainable practices and water stewardship in their fields. Evaluation partners International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Institute for Sustainable Development Impact (I4DI) support through program evaluation.
As the Alliance sunsets in 2023, Gap Inc. is supporting its next evolution by partnering with the Water Resilience Coalition to launch a new collective action initiative: the Women + Water Collaborative. The new program will build upon existing Women + Water program learnings, government relationships, and reporting mechanisms—and with the support of new partners from across industries, it will accelerate the impact to reach additional communities in water-stressed regions.
With a challenge as widespread and complex as long-term access to clean water and sanitation, multiple types of partnerships will be essential. Innovative financing will be an effective way to amplify impact at scale. Gap Inc. is partnering alongside global companies and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to invest in WaterEquity’s Global Access Fund IV, which will support financial institutions and enterprises in emerging markets to scale their water and sanitation lending activities, such as loans that enable low-income and marginalized customers to install household water and sanitation solutions.
It is through collective action partnerships such as these—with leading nonprofits, institutions at the global, national, and local levels, private sector companies, and community stakeholders—that we aim to empower 5 million people with sustained and equitable access to climate-resilient WASH services by 2030.