Water and sanitation interventions, goes a long way in promoting and protecting women’s rights and dignity, and also securing their social and economic empowerment; thus tackling gender disparities. Little wonder then, why water and sanitation programmes and policies are very close to the heart of women and cannot be overlooked. WaterAid, an international NGO dedicated exclusively to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people is taking giant steps towards transforming the lives of over 134,000 people in Malawi through The Big Dig appeal which was launched on June 18th, 2012 in United Kingdom. The appeal which is expected to run till 18th of September 2012 is intended to raise money for the organization’s works in rural parts of Malawi. Available information indicated that all money donated by the UK public to the appeal will be matched pound for pound by the UK Government from their aid budget, thus helping WaterAid to reach twice as many people. On the whole, they hope to raise £1.2m through The Big Dig Appeal.
One does not have to be a Malawian or travel to Malawi to empathize with the existing water and sanitation situation there; as WaterAid has gone a long way to put together campaign videos that appreciably tells the story. Currently in Malawi, 1 in 5 people have no supply of clean water, and nearly 1 in 2 has to cope with the indignity of having nowhere safe to go to the toilet. In rural communities, women and children more often than not, have to walk over a kilometer to scavenge water from unsafe sources. WaterAid is, however, determined to turn around the tales of the very high incidences of water related diseases, inadequate water and sanitary facilities as well as very poor hygiene practices; that characterize indigenous communities in the country. Over the next three months, two villages (Bokola and Kaniche) in rural Malawi will be benefitting from WaterAid’s assistance. Their action which will be multi-sectoral, covering water and sanitation, will definitely be socially, politically, culturally and economically empowering, especially for women and girls; as it is targeted at making clean water and sanitation technologies/facilities more available and accessible. The success of the Big Dig project will no doubt be a big deal for Malawian women, particularly because they are the ones who are most hit by the dearth of safe water and sanitation facilities. They will be relieved of the burdens they bear as a result of lack of access to adequate water and sanitation services as well as poor hygiene.
Though Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7, of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015 is still a far from being achieved, WaterAid’s gender sensitive and effective interventions in the water and sanitation sectors have brought succor to many women across Sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, for instance, WaterAid has implemented a number of water, sanitation and hygiene projects that have helped many rural women and communities escape from poverty and social exclusion. Even so, “The Big Deal” project in Malawi has the potential of creating equal opportunities as it will directly and indirectly address the wellbeing of everyone (children, women, and men, as well as those who are elderly or disabled) in the targeted communities. Aside from contributing to the scaling up of water and sanitation coverage in Malawi, it can also become a model for interventions in other countries where issues of access to clean and safe water, sanitation and good hygiene practices have remained a challenge. For many who are interested in knowing how and where their charitable donations are being spent, and the impact being made, you may follow subsequent updates.