I love water. I love rivers, lakes, oceans, streams, ponds, hot baths, cold showers, and I love drinking it too. I grew up taking safe water for granted. We made ice pops, we took long showers and we even threw water balloons at our neighbors. Living in the U.S. I never dreamed that many people traveled hours to collect water and if they did manage to get water that they often couldn’t drink it. Or that statistically more people died as a result of unsafe water then all wars. For my family and I, water was cheap, dependable and only one facet away. It was not until I left for Kenya in my early twenties that my relationship with water changed and I realized how vital safe water was to women and their families.
Women are seen as the retrievers and guardians of water. It is their role not only to collect the water, but the daily tasks they perform involve greater usages, such as household chores such as cooking, washing, to purifying water and are at greater exposure to unclean water. It was not until I starting working with Project Maji that I truly began to understand the size and scale of the implications of water shortages on women and children. For example:
Women spend around 60% of their day collecting water, which translates to approximately 200 million work hours by women globally per day
With the typical water container, weighing over 20kg when full, women and child walk with this an average of 6km each day
Access to safe water is vital to projecting pregnant women.
Many young children, especially girls, are prevented from attending school and receiving an education because of the demands of water retrieval and household chores, which are made more time-intensive because of a lack of readily available water.
1/3 of all schools lack access to basic sanitation. Women and girls also pay the heaviest price for poor sanitation. A lack of clean water means the absence of sanitary facilities and latrines in schools, and so once puberty hits, this has a more serious impact on adolescence girls’ attendance.
844 million are living without access to safe water and 2.3 billion people are living without access to improved sanitation.
I was on good wages, lived alone, and had the financial and housing means to harvest rain from my roof. However, I watched as many of my Kenyan coworkers, friends, community members struggled to keep their large families bathed and fed, whilst also trying to attend to their agriculture and livestock responsibilities. Women and children in my community often bared the burden of all the household tasks and were responsible for water collection. This is true in most African communities.
It has been 14 years since I arrived in Kenya to live and work and while I would love to write that in 2020 these challenges no longer remain, that is not the case. While local and international communities continue to create innovation solutions to bring safe water closer to women and their families, more work still needs to be done. Its one of the reasons why I joined Project Maji and continue to serve as a Trustee. I still love water. Because bringing access to clean and safe water change someone’s life for the better. It changes their families, their schools and their communities. Do something you love today. Find how you can get involved with Project Maji in the month of March to celebrate WNiorld Water Day.
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