THE CORE OF CHANGE
“You only need to meet one person whose life has been changed by water to believe in the power of access to safe water. It’s completely transformational,” Damon shared. “I still think about the first person I ever went on a water collection trip with in Zambia. She was a 14-year-old girl who had big dreams and plans for her life. She reminded me of how my friends and I talked when we were kids. We had big ambitions of going to the big city and becoming actors. Listening to her, it hit me. Access to water extends beyond needless suffering. Water is hope.”
Women, the backbone of families and communities, all too often bear the brunt of the water crisis. Women and girls spend 266 million hours every day finding a place to relieve themselves and 200 million hours every day collecting water—a task that forces them to forfeit precious time that could be spent on education, work, and family care.
“A lack of access to safe water keeps people trapped in a cycle of poverty, disease, and lost productivity, and it doesn't have to be this way,” Damon said.
The lack of access to water perpetuates a cycle of poverty, limiting their potential. Empowering women, White and Damon explain, is critical to solving the water crisis. When women have access to safe water at home, they can pursue more beyond water collection. It grants them the time and opportunity to contribute to household income, a transformative step towards breaking the cycle of poverty.
The economic toll of the water crisis is staggering, with $260 billion lost annually due to the lack of basic water and sanitation. Time spent collecting water or seeking sanitation robs families of economic opportunities.
According to the World Bank, current levels of financing for water and sanitation fall far short—billions of dollars short. Closing this gap is essential for universal access, but doing so requires innovative and efficient approaches. With millions affected worldwide, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a crisis of this scale.
People in need already pay high water prices, in both time and money—and many of these families can get a water or sanitation solution in their homes for a fraction of their annual water costs. All they need is access to affordable financing to make this a reality.
White and Damon shared their belief that, if given a choice and an opportunity to pay for water and sanitation improvements over a reasonable time, millions of people living in poverty would finance long-term solutions versus struggling day-to-day to find that next litre of water. However, many financial institutions in developing countries aren't offering loans for water and sanitation to people in need. Water.org, through its flagship solution, WaterCredit, is set to take on the challenge.
By providing small loans and expert resources, WaterCredit empowers those in need to transform their households with lasting water and sanitation solutions. It’s a market-driven and people-driven solution that has already changed millions of lives—and most importantly, it works. Loan repayment rates are 98 per cent globally, and every repaid loan means another family can get safe water at home. The cycle continues to reach more people, creating new opportunities for families worldwide.
“Our powerful solution is working, and the proof is in the numbers,” said White, CEO and co-founder of Water.org “To date, we’ve reached more than 60 million people with safe water or sanitation, having reached half that impact in the last five years alone. It is a big idea gone right.”
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited