By Alix Lebec, Executive Vice President of Investor Relations, WaterEquity
Imagine dropping out of school or being unemployed because your time and energy is needed to secure water for your family.
Globally, women and girls spend six hours daily collecting water for their families. That’s why 1 in 4 girls in developing countries don’t finish elementary school. With access to safe water and access to toilets, girls can stay in school and women have time to go to work, build their own businesses, and contribute to the development of their families and communities.
Put simply, investments in water and sanitation are investments in women.
Let me introduce you to Chim Chany, an entrepreneurial woman I met in Cambodia. With a daily income of $2–8 a day, her family struggled to pay the $26 a month needed for an un-safe water connection contaminated with arsenic. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that drinking this contaminated water caused her family to become frequently ill. Seeing this, Chim Chany decided to take the matter into her own hands and change her family’s circumstances. She met with a local microfinance bank and took out a small loan to pay for the construction of a safe water connection in her home.
The results are impressive — Chim Chany easily repaid her loan in one year, her monthly water bill is now $7, and her family is no longer sick. She now runs her own business and sends her children to school.
Chim Chany’s experience and the $12 billion in demand from families living in poverty for access to affordable financing to meet their water needs inspired the launch of WaterEquity. As an impact investment manager, WaterEquity’s funds invest in water and sanitation enterprises that serve women like Chim Chany.
In emerging markets, 55-68% of small and medium-sized enterprises are underserved by financial institutions and lack financing to expand their coverage. WaterEquity’s funds fill this gap by investing in microfinance institutions, micro-utilities, toilet manufacturers, and water purification and sales kiosks.
By investing in WaterEquity’s funds, investors like— Bank of America, Ceniarth LLC, Niagara Bottling, OPIC, the Conrad N. Hilton and Skoll Foundations— are investing in women.
Without access to safe water and proper sanitation, women and girls are bound to a life that entails spending hours securing water for their families, dropping out school, and risking their safety and health when looking for a place to go to the bathroom.
Investments that enable women and their families to have access to safe water and sanitation not only fuel economic growth, but also ensure these communities can prosper and have a healthier future. With this in mind and a strong pipeline of investable deals, WaterEquity has invested $11 million in microfinance institutions in India through its first Fund, already repaying investors last year with a higher-than-expected annual distribution payment of 3.6%. It also most recently launched a $50 million Fund that will impact 4.6 million lives in Asia, and is well positioned to reach those living in poverty.
The more investment we bring on board, the more people we reach. And the more people we reach, the closer we get to a world in which everyone, by 2030, has safe water—and all the opportunity that flows from it.