VF Foundation
Mar 18, 2024

Empowering Women Through Equitable Access to Water

Lack of access to safe water at home is a major barrier to women living their full potential. Nearly 1 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related diseases, with a disproportionate impact on women and girls. Increasing access to safe water and sanitation is one tactic that can help address this global crisis. 

Women in developing countries spend a staggering 200 million collective hours searching for safe water for themselves and their families, which is estimated to equal $260 billion in lost earning potential for women each year. When basic needs such as food, water, and shelter are met, women are empowered to focus their time on education and employment opportunities, dramatically altering their quality of life for the better. It also uplifts their family and strengthens their community.

Water.org, a global nonprofit founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, focuses on market-driven financial solutions to address the global water crisis.  One of the major barriers to safe water and sanitation is affordable financing. Their core solution, WaterCredit, integrates microfinancing with water and sanitation to break the cycle of poverty by providing women and their families with access to small loans and expert resources to make household water and toilet solutions a reality. As a family repays a loan, this money can then be lent to another family in need of safe water or sanitation. This pay-it-forward system is quickly scaling its impact with a 98% loan repayment success rate.

The results from these microloans are powerful. Together with their local partners, Water.org has catalyzed $5.2 billion in capital to support these loans, improving the lives of more than 63 million people on four continents.

This approach fosters self-reliance and creates shared value in the community. Moreover, the annual financing gap for water stands at $85.6 billion, with the World Bank estimating that $114 billion per year is needed to achieve safely managed water and sanitation to meet targets for Goal 6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

In an effort to amplify this work, The VF Foundation and Water.org are partnering to transform communities in Kenya, where 15 million residents lack access to safe water and 37 million face sanitation issues. Nairobi is a VF sourcing hub and a city facing water scarcity and sanitation challenges that demand innovative, implementable solutions. Concentrating their efforts in Machakos County, Nairobi County, Kiambu County, and Kajiado County—regions adjacent to VF’s contract manufacturing footprint in metro Nairobi— Water.org is focused on making a substantial difference through technical assistance, market research, training, and monitoring to empower key individuals in the community that goes beyond the distribution of loans.

The VF Foundation’s work to support access to water in Kenya complements VF Corporation’s work to address water issues within the apparel supply chain through the Worker and Community Development (WCD) program, which is designed to improve the lives of workers and their communities in three key areas: water and sanitation, health and nutrition, and childcare and education.

The VF Foundation is proud to partner with Water.org to help people in Nairobi access clean water for drinking and sanitation. We are excited to see the long-term impact this partnership will make in these communities and hope others will join in to support this important work.

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