Sareen Malik and Dieneke van der Wijk about the water crisis: ‘The world has woken up’

Article: 05.09.22, Amsterdam, Karin Bojorge-Alvarez

Last week they were attending the World Water Week Conference in Stockholm, this morning they were interviewed in the Dutch Breakfast Show ‘Koffietijd’. Dieneke van der Wijk, managing director of Simavi, and Sareen Malik, executive secretary of the African Civil Society Network on Water, are on a joint mission.

Sareen Malik: “We were in Stockholm to tell the world what’s happening. That the climate change is leading to a water crisis. And that this water crisis hits women and girls in Africa the hardest. And we are here now to explain to the Dutch government and the Dutch people that this is a serious issue. That we need to mobilise people and support.”

In many countries fetching water is the responsibility of women and girls, who often have to walk or wait for hours. Malik: “I hate to see those awful yellow jerrycans. Because it means that girls can’t go to school, can’t build their future. And with climate change we see that wells are drying up or being flooded. That means that girls have to spend even more time fetching water on top of all the other duties they already have.”

Photo: Koffietijd

The need to find local solutions

It even leads to women and girls having sex in exchange for water. Dieneke van der Wijk: “This is terrible, but it is what is happening. We as Simavi are working in different countries in Africa and Asia to make girls more resilient, to speak up and say no. And also make sure there are safe water points, for example led by women.”

Malik: “It is difficult to understand poverty unless you grow up in it. But if you need water by all means and you can save the little money you have to buy food…. There are men taking advantage of that. So we need to find local solutions: such as free water points or water points led by women.”

“The good news is that we are here right now, telling our story on conferences and on television. And that the world has woken up this summer to the fact that something needs to be done when it comes to water and climate. For me that’s a sign of hope. Change is coming.”

Water Wake-Up Call

Sareen Malik is, at Simavi's invitation, in the Netherlands to 'wake-up' Dutch politicians. After all, as a water country, the Netherlands has a responsibility and, as the organizer of the UN Water Conference in New York next year, also has the influence to tackle the global water crisis. To put extra pressure on the government with a petition, Simavi started the Water Wake-Up Call.


Do you also want to work for women and girls? Ensure that they have access to safe water and can respond to the water crisis? Then sign the petition!

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