Women and Water: The Partnership Taking on the Global Water Crisis to Lift Up Women

March 22, 2018 By Megan Rabbitt

As a supervisor in the apparel industry, Sujatha is beating the odds and defying her community’s expectations for women. Through Gap, Inc.’s P.A.C.E. program in India, Sujatha acquired the skills needed to earn a promotion. Now in a management position, she is succeeding in her career and setting a positive example for the women in her family.

In Sujatha’s village, women rarely have an opportunity to pursue an education or build a career. But after seeing Sujatha take charge of her future, her older sister was inspired to help her daughter do the same. She explained: “watching Sujatha makes me want to give a better education to my daughter, I want her dreams to come true.”

Sujatha is far from the only woman to have benefitted from P.A.C.E., which Gap Inc. launched first in India in 2007 and has since expanded to 16 countries. By the end of 2020, P.A.C.E. plans to reach 1 million women and girls worldwide.

P.A.C.E. – which stands for Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement – provides up to 80 hours of classroom training for women working in garment factories or living in surrounding communities. The program is designed to equip participants with strong communication and time-management skills, as well as an ability to solve problems and make strategic decisions. And through the P.A.C.E. for Girls Program, adolescent girls receive support and guidance as they learn life skills, gain confidence, and plan for their futures.

Just last year, Gap Inc. partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch the Women + Water Alliance in India, a collaboration to improve and sustain the health and well-being of women and communities touched by the apparel industry. According to UNICEF, women and girls around the world collectively spend more than 200 million hours fetching water per day – time that could otherwise be spent in the classroom or earning an income. And in the years ahead, the situation is expected to become even more dire. By 2025, it’s predicted that two-thirds of the global population will live in areas lacking water or with poor water quality. And by 2030, demand for clean water is expected to exceed the available supply by 40%.

To address the challenges women and girls face, P.A.C.E. curriculum now includes lessons on safe sanitation and hygiene practices. And through the Women + Water Alliance –with the support of partner organizations like CARE and Water.org – the program has expanded ensure women and girls in communities touched by the apparel sector have access to safe water and sanitation. By incorporating lessons on safe sanitation and hygiene practices, as well as building communication and advocacy skills, P.A.C.E. is empowering women and girls with the knowledge and resources they need to drive change in their communities.

Kindley Walsh Lawlor, Vice President, of P.A.C.E. explained that “At its core, P.A.C.E. is helping women use their voices, share their dreams and own their futures. As a result, women are speaking up for themselves, their families and their communities. It’s changing lives. This ripple effect is the power of P.A.C.E.”


Photo Credit: Prashanth Vishwanathan for USAID