Historically, Coast Salish female identity depended upon water. Waterways provided women with countless economic opportunities, fostered family ties, created plentiful food sources, and encouraged female autonomy. Even as female maritime practices changed drastically throughout the pre-colonial and colonial periods, Coast Salish women imagined new ways to maintain connections to water.
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We seek to tell a story that demonstrates how combining a common goal with compromise and deliberate action leads to creative solutions and meaningful progress. Our professional backgrounds and experiences are diverse—our group includes a professional land manager, a clean water policy attorney, a conservation agronomist, and a municipal watershed manager. Through each of our personal stories, we will share examples of action-oriented strategies for improving the quality of Iowa’s land and water.
Using GIS mapping, I can identify at-risk communities most impacted by water-related natural disasters in the Houston Metropolitan Area (HMA), which is highly susceptible to hurricanes, tropical storms, and excessive flooding. Geospatial analysis reveals that at-risk communities are not randomly distributed throughout the HMA; populations like women and children are at higher risk of disproportionate outcomes during flooding events.
Endless hours writing and analyzing samples in the lab was not the most difficult part of graduate school, however. It was walking into a class and seeing that, yet again, no one else looks like me. It was walking into a room and knowing I must fight twice as hard to disprove any underlying biases people might have of me. It was when comments were made that weren’t necessarily targeted at me, but that impacted me because I was the only black woman in the room, lecture hall, or meeting.
The association between WASH services and gendered vulnerability to violence in rural locales and urban slums in developing countries has received the most study, but women everywhere are vulnerable when they lack access to, or are accessing, WASH services. All of which leaves one asking why global leaders focus on the possibility of future water-related conflict rather than respond to the very real crisis conditions in which women and girls exist now?
Through interviews, surveys and focus group discussions with 258 households in Mathare during 2016 and 2017, I found that women faced huge challenges and trauma in collecting water. Besides the woes of finding a running tap and wasting valuable time waiting in queues, procuring water entails physical hardship that often leads to mental agony that sometimes even threatens the women’s safety.