Yesterday, despite the gray skies and light rain, a crowd gathered outside the State Department's 21st Street entrance, where Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer kicked off the second Annual 6k Walk for Water.
Most of us in the United States take for granted clean and accessible drinking water. But, for millions of people -- mostly women and girls -- around the world, they must walk an average of six kilometers to collect water for their families. The task of collecting water keeps children out of school and prevents women from engaging in more productive economic activities. Water resources have widespread implications for gender equity, as well as for the global environment, health, economy, and food security.
Clean water resources are essential for a healthy planet. Experts estimate that by 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world's population will be living under water-stressed conditions. Already, unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene are among the world's top risk factors for death and disease. As Secretary Clinton has said, water is a global imperative.
The U.S. Department of State has made both water and women's issues foreign policy priorities, and, in coordination with other U.S. government agencies, is actively engaged on these issues. The U.S. strategy is founded in the belief that investments in water and sanitation translate into investments in people.
Yesterday, as the rain drizzled over Washington, we walked for the millions of women who journey a great distance every day just to provide for their families. In doing so we joined over 370,000 people in 80 different countries who have walked similar journeys to continue the global conversation. And we recommit ourselves to expanding efforts to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation, so that one day no man, woman, or child will have to put themselves and their families at risk for the sake of water collection.
Katie G. Kirkpatrick is a program analyst in the Under Secretary of Management's Office of Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation. She also serves as the events coordinator for the State Department's Greening Council, which helped organize the 6K Walk for Water.