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Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University
wH2O: The Journal of Gender and Water is an online journal about women and water issues around the world. The journal masthead includes a graphic of a woman carrying a water pot on her head; just to the right of this graphic is a hand-lettered poster saying, “Water is Life Do Not Waste It.” These combined elements sum up the purpose, and focus, of this journal.
It comes out of the University of Pennsylvania, and began as the result of a “2011 trip to India and Sri Lanka on behalf of the Master’s of Environmental Studies program at Penn, the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership at Wharton and the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative.” The two students who took that trip then co-founded wH2O, after having spoken “with several people in the field from the U.N. and NGOs (many of whom will be a part of this project) who detailed the type of leadership and partnership necessary to advance women’s status through fixing sanitation and water issues.” The professor who led the trip, Stanley Laskowski, is now an advisor to the journal.
The journal’s mission, of advancing women’s economic and social development by creating a centralized body of interdisciplinary research on water and sanitation issues, is made clear by a simple fact the journal points out, that “women bear the brunt of gathering water worldwide; in developing countries women walk up to 5km each way and expend up to half their calories on water fetching. Providing water access and sanitation means that women can stay in school longer and are healthier and lose fewer days from sickness in the family.” It is no wonder, then, that governments, foreign aid agencies, and NGOs are paying more attention to the importance of women’s access to water and sanitation. A quick Google search finds Women and Water: An Impossible Choice, Water Facts (Women and Water), Empowering Women through Water – The Water Project, unicef’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene page, which notes “Women and girls bear the burden of fetching water – and as a result miss out on opportunities for education, productive activities or leisure time…. Women and girls also pay the heaviest price for poor sanitation,” and the Nature Conservancy’s Women and Water page, which asks the question, “Do women have the power to heal the world's waters?” wH2O certainly helps to underscore the importance of water to women and to societies as a whole.
Three issues of wH2O have been published so far, one each in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Each issue contains six to nine short (5-10 page) articles, as well as full-color photos. One issue includes a Reflection (“Water from the Enslaved South to a South Dakota Farmstead,” a short memory piece by an American Civil War scholar who farmed in South Dakota without direct access to water), as well as an infographic of sanitation fixtures in India. Articles tend to be scholarly and academic in nature (for example, “Mainstreaming Gender in Land and Water Governance: Perspectives from Rural Uganda”), yet others address topics relevant especially to the poor, everywhere (such as, “Mum's the Word? Speaking out for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Strategies”).
This is an academic journal that will speak to a broader audience, and given that it’s open access, public librarians and academic librarians alike will want to recommend it to local planners and those researching world health issues.