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Nairobi, 22 Feb 10

UN-HABITAT hosted a meeting of women’s networks from 20-21 February to develop a strategy for a “Women for Water Decade” in Africa—a new platform for advocacy to promote women’s involvement in solving the region’s water and sanitation problems.

“We want to see women of Africa as agents of change as opposed to being victims,” said Mary Rusmbi, Chair of the meeting, and a steering committee member of the Women for Water Partnership. The Partnership is an alliance of women’s networks and development partners working on water and sanitation issues.

Women’s advocates identified a need for the Women for Water Decade as part of a new advocacy campaign to maintain focus on gender issues in the development of African water and sanitation programmes. Although the United Nations declared the “Decade on Water,” it will end in 2015, while it is predicted that millions of Africans will still have inadequate access to clean water and basic sanitation.

Lucia Kiwala, Chief of UN-HABITAT’s Gender Mainstreaming Unit, emphasized the importance of the campaign on women in slums, since more and more Africans are residing in unhygienic living conditions within poor urban areas. In sub-Saharan Africa, 62 per cent of the urban population live in slums.

“Although as we speak, most of the population in Africa is rural, the world is not standing still. Africa is the fastest urbanizing region.” About 40 per cent of the population currently live in urban areas, but at the current rate of urbanization, half of Africans will be living in town and cities by 2023.

Over the coming months, the Women for Water Partnership will continue to elaborate on plans for the Women for Water Decade.

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