World Water Day is Another Women’s Day!

Olanike
Posted March 20, 2017 from Nigeria
A young girl sourcing water from a highly contaminated source.
Water matters to women
Water matters to women: Olanike interacting with two young ladies on their way to a water point. (1/1)

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 contentsto 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 thesafe 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 center 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!

This story was submitted in response to Water.

Comments 6

Log in or register to post comments
Jill Langhus
Mar 21, 2017
Mar 21, 2017

Hi Olanike. How sad and scary that Mary, her family and so many others don't have access to this fundamental element. Does your country have access to http://www.aquatabs.com/home/ or something similar? Or what about this charity that I have read about, https://www.charitywater.org/? Does Mary have clean or at least cleaner water now?

Olanike
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Dear jlanghus,

I am indeed grateful to you for sharing information about aquatabs with me. I have checked the web link you shared and found so much important information there. Aquatab is new to me though I don't have any ideas about the product being already available in Nigeria. It is great though that there is information on how one can buy the product. I would certainly follow up on that!

I am also excited to know about www.charitywater.org. It is also something I would give my best to following up and making the most of the opportunities offered. As things stand, not much has changed about Mary's access to clean and safe water; but I remain committed towards helping change the story for her and her community really soon.

You just re-energized me and beamed hope!

Hugs and gratitude,

Olanike

Jill Langhus
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

I'm so glad to give you support and helpful information:-) Let me know if you need anything else or if I can help you.

JulieG
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Dear Olanike,

Thank you for sharing this reality with us on World Water Day.  Your story really brings the truth of the incredible challenges around clean water for communities.  You are right, this is another Women's day, and I love the idea of bringing that connection out to the world.   Water, life and women are undeniably connected.  I'm grateful for you and your organizations commitment to bring women to the center of this issue and potential solutions.  Thank you!

Olanike
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Yes Julie! "Water, life and women are undeniably connected". In communities around the world, it is women who take on the traditional role of sourcing for and managing water in households. It is really sad that women have to go through a lot of hassles to find safe and clean water for their families first, before they can even consider meeting their own personal water needs. The simplest way out of the challenges in the water and sanitation sector is to ensure that women are positioned at the center of potential solutions. 

I sure appreciate your thoughts!

Best,

Olanike

Jensine Larsen
Jul 13, 2017
Jul 13, 2017

My sister, I am having a moment to catch up and read your words - what a powerful story!  There is a glowing light at end of tunnel. It is a green light!!! Olanike, you are a glowing light for me, knowing that new knowledge, new technologies and the ever rising tide of leaders like yourself are bringing transformation for wellbeing to the most far reaching communities.