For so many women, today’s water crisis takes many forms: especially having to walk long distances every day to fetch enough drinking water – clean or unclean, contaminated or uncontaminated, safe or unsafe – just to get by, suffering from avoidable malnutrition or disease caused by drought, flood or inadequate sanitation, or in terms of a lack of funds, institutions or knowledge to solve local problems of water use and allocation. In 2010, a joint visit by a team from my organization and executive members of Attarkar Women Association of Nigeria (AWAN) to a farmland on which we were to establish a jointly owned and managed demonstration farm, once again brought me face to face with this reality. While on the farm, we carried out an appraisal of the virgin farmland and did a lot of brainstorming over the next steps on putting our plans to progressive action.

After about two hours sojourn at the location, Mary Abu (not real name) a member of AWAN excitedly invited us to her home, which was about 15 minutes drive away. She extended an invitation to us to come spend some time in her home to refresh- particularly to quench our famishing thirst and also wash our earth smeared hands and feet. Everyone’s hands and feet were quite mucky and unsightly as a result of all the back and forth trekking as well as dipping of our curious fingers into wet soil while on the farm. Done with our exploration, we all hopped back into the four wheel drive vehicle, and then drove as far as we could on a very narrow road until we got to a point that was not motorable. We had to pull to a stop and walk the rest of the way to Mary’s house. 

Once we arrived her home, Mary called out to her older son (a boy of about eight years old) to fetch us some water for drinking as well as for cleaning ourselves up. Simultaneously, she advanced towards and entered into one of the thatched roofing mud houses in the compound that she and her children call home. By the time Mary reappeared, she was holding a fairly large silver coloured aluminum cup, while her older son was right besides her carrying an averaged sized bucket full of water.  He reached us and dropped the container full of water right in front of us (his mum’s guests), following which Mary joyfully handed her obviously special and prized drinking cup to me, as her youngest son of about 2 years old kicked up his heels playfully around her in heightened mindfulness of his mum’s August visitors.

I gazed in awe at the muddy looking water in the bucket in front of me, as I wondered if we were actually expected to or would dare gulp the contents to subdue or ease the dryness which had become the lot of our water famished throats. I had no choice but to politely inform our host that I was more pressed for a wash up than thirsty; as there was no way I was going to risk consuming water which I logically concluded was not safe for consumption. It was pretty scary to even imagine that the same water I did not even feel comfortable to wash my hands and feet with was all Mary, her children and other members of their community relied on daily to meet their domestic needs- including but not limited to drinking, cooking and laundry. Like others in her community, Mary relies on a well that is devoid of any form of protective lining that would at the least help improve the cleanliness of the water sourced from it. “Nearly half of all people using dirty water live in sub-Saharan Africa, and one fifth live in Southern Asia” states 2015 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report

Once back to my base, I began looking out for ways to bring safe water to Mary’s community. Hopes were high for intervention at some point, but sadly, the corporate organizations I approached at the time with a request for them to provide a borehole in the community as a corporate social responsibility, were more about how it would translate into financial returns for them. I was pretty helpless about their standpoint and ended up not following up on the change I wanted to help make happen in Mary’s community as my organization couldn’t afford the cost implication. Sad realities such as this put up with by Mary, abound across communities in Nigeria. This is worrying! It sure retells the tales of despair and paints a clear picture of the dismal situation faced by one-third of humanity’s lives in countries where clean and safe water is scarce. According to WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report 2015), “663 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water” and 42% of healthcare facilities in Africa do not have access to safe water (WHO/UNICEF, 2015.)

Every time we celebrate water, we are also celebrating life and women. World Water Day is another Women’s Day! Thus, as the 2017 World Water Day (22nd of March) approaches and I take to heart this year’s theme which is ‘Water and Waste Water’, I am filled with renewed hope about what is possible for women like Mary in the water and sanitation sector. Women’s leadership in the safe management of water is  non negotiable as it is undoubtedly key in improving  the general health and well being of individuals, families, communities and our ecosystem as a whole. According, I recommit towards ensuring that my organization continues to prioritize and deliver programs that position women at the centre as well as forefront of solutions in the water and sanitation sector. There is glowing light at the end of the tunnel as so much has changed for me from the time I encountered first Mary and now as I write, particularly in terms of where and how to mobilize resources for my desired intervention in her community. I will sure take a go once again at helping her community.

Happy World Water Day in advance!

Topic Environment

Comments

Dear Greengirl,

How well said world water day is indeed women's day and we can say that for many other days. It is women who are always at the receiving end of poor social services in our communities , unfortunately our communities and countries remain poor because women have been left behind. Recognising a problem in the community and taking action is definitely a starting point to eradicating the problem. I wish you well in your fundraising endeavours and hope that clean water can reach Mary's Village. Well done

LVB

Thank you for being there to listen to me and also sharing your feedback and thoughts with me again and again. Women can no longer afford to be spectators when it comes to the issues that affect and also concerns women. We sure need to rise up and find and also advance solutions to the challenges that we face day in day out. Your well wishes and solidarity means a lot to me even as I hope for the best concerning what I envision for Mary's community. Fingers crossed!

Sending loads of hugs and much love to 'YOU'!

 

Olanike

A very important subject and one that is part of another very critical issue of unpaid domestic work (Care Work). Kudos to you for highlighting this! We really need to have more dialogue on this.

Dear Sabin,

I am happy to know that the subject resonates, and thank you so much for linking it to "the very critical issue of unpaid domestic work". You also just inspired another story angle on the subject. I have taken it to heart to that we need to keep the conversation going. Any ideas you have, that would facilitate more dialogue around the subject is much welcomed.

Thank you so much for connecting with me through the story. looking forward to getting to know you better.

 

Best wishes,

Olanike

Thank you for this beautiful reminder of the essential role that sacred water plays in our lives. In the US, so many of us have been inspired by the dedication and sacrifices of the Dakota Access pipeline Water Protectors and their steadfast determination to protect the Missouri River from an oil pipeline, an accident on which could destroy drinking water for 10 million people. I recall the words of a poem called "Holy Water" by Karen Huffy:

Holy Water

I taste the saltiness As tiny droplets wet my lips And I am reminded ... Of how much of me is fluid. That my skeleton walks on water.

By Karen Huffy, 2004

 

Dear Julie,

I am happy to share as much as I could, and it gives me greater joy to hear back from you! It's great to see you also acknowledge the efforts of the Dakota Access pipeline Water Protectors. Protecting a water source that is serving 10 million people is very laudable, and I join you to celebrate and cheer on the amazing individuals who have committed to the cause.

I love the 'Holy Water' poem and remain grateful that you shared it with me. I celebrate you!

 

Hugs,

Olanike

Dear Julie,

I am happy to share as much as I could, and it gives me greater joy to hear back from you! It's great to see you also acknowledge the efforts of the Dakota Access pipeline Water Protectors. Protecting a water source that is serving 10 million people is very laudable, and I join you to celebrate and cheer on the amazing individuals who have committed to the cause.

I love the 'Holy Water' and remain grateful that you shared it with me. I celebrate you!

 

Hugs,

Olanike

Dear Greengirl,

Water, water everywhere but every drop is too muddy to drink! Saddening story. Do these people even know what clean water looks like or how important clean water is to their health? Have they adapted to their situation due to ignorance or because they have been forgotten and hence are simply helpless? I raise these questions in the hope that they will help you in your quest for a solution. May THE FORCE be with you (lol) as you look into their case. They do need your help. Do keep us updated, will you?

Hello Queen,

Nice to read your thoughts. Thank you so much for reaching out.

Yes, I can say of a surety that people in Mary's community know what clean water looks like, because packaged safe drinking water is sold in the community. Problem lies in the fact that most of the people there cannot afford it. Of course too, they have been neglected in terms of provision of basic amenities and have helplessly had to adapt to the dire situations which has become the lot of their community.

I heartily embrace your prayers and would most definitely share updates as events unfold.

 

Hugs,

Olanike

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Ngozi,

Thank you so much for making out time to read my piece and also reaching out. I am truly touched that you even took it further by exploring likely solutions and sharing same with me. I checked out the link you shared and very much appreciate it!

Interestingly, the water filter technology idea in the link is very familiar. I had the good fortune of participating in the first African Woman and Water Conference held at Karen Nbi, Kenya in 2008 where alongside another grassroots woman leader (my team member at the training) from Nigeria, I learned various water supply and purification technologies. One of such water purification technology was the Bio Sand Water Filter (originally developed by Center for Affordable Water Technologies) which since returning, we have tried out with various women groups in a number communities my organization serves. The water filters in the link you shared are also designed based on the same technicalities.

Well, at the initial time of wanting to help Mary Abu's (recall: not real name) community and based on a needs  assessment, the intervention explored was the provision of a solar powered borehole. It is great though that you called my attention to the water filter, as it has inspired me to begin to think out of the box as it concerns the types of short term and long term solutions we can explore in solving water related challenges in communities.

You are surely a partner in progress!!!!!!!!!

 

Blessings and gratitude,

Olanike

Hello Ngozi,

Thank you so much for making out time to read my piece and also reaching out. I am truly touched that you even took it further by exploring likely solutions and sharing same with me. I checked out the link you shared and very much appreciate it!

Interestingly, the water filter technology idea in the link is very familiar. I had the good fortune of participating in the first African Woman and Water Conference held at Karen Nbi, Kenya in 2008 where alongside another grassroots woman leader (my team member at the training) from Nigeria, I learned various water supply and purification technologies. One of such water purification technology was the Bio Sand Water Filter (originally developed by Center for Affordable Water Technologies) which since returning, we have tried out with various women groups in a number communities my organization serves. The water filters in the link you shared are also designed based on the same technicalities.

Well, at the initial time of wanting to help Mary Abu's (recall: not real name) community and based on a needs  assessment, the intervention explored was the provision of a solar powered borehole. It is great though that you called my attention to the water filter, as it has inspired me to begin to think out of the box as it concerns the types of short term and long term solutions we can explore in solving water related challenges in communities.

You are surely a partner in progress!!!!!!!!!

 

Blessings and gratitude,

Olanike

Dear Olanike,

On this World Water Day It has been important for me to remember the urgent work we need to continue in my country to protect our lakes and rivers from companies like Nestles and the mining companies that continue to do ruination. But my immediate environment is so far from what this woman who invited you home faces every day, and far from what so many face. On this World Water Day I deepen my commitment to water, and to our collective work toward no woman having to shoulder the burden as you have so deeply described. We are all responsible and needed, in creating the protection of water. I celebrate that on this day I am able to be informed and reminded, that I am able to log onto World Pulse and read from and about the important work that you, dear sister continue to do. That I am able to meet you and other sisters like you here on World Pulse, and know we are working together for each other and for our beloved Earth gives me such hope.

Love always,

Tam