by Kristin Allen
OK, it is really sinking in…. I am going to Niger, West Africa with the amazing organization I am affiliated with, Wells Bring Hope. I am traveling with them to write about their efforts and success so far, and also to witness first-hand the desperate amount of work and hardship that still needs to be addressed.
In these difficult economic times, it is easy to lose sight of the many things we have to be thankful for, but with Thanksgiving just around the corner and the holidays not far behind, now is the perfect time to pause, reflect, and express our gratitude for all that we have.
Did you know that October 15 is the International Day of Rural Women? It was established by the United Nations in 2007 and observed for the first time in 2008, in New York. The purpose of dedicating the day to women living in rural areas of the world is to direct attention to both the contribution that women make in these areas, and the many challenges that they face.
Three Minutes a Week to Save a Life
Recently, I looked at pictures of clean and dirty water taken during my last trip to Niger, West Africa. There were a few shots of the surrounding village of Tchibarey. These photos remind me that while much of Africa struggles to find clean water sources, during the wettest season, the ‘marigaux’’ encircling the village was high enough to force us to get out of the car and walk through the water embankment so we could get to the village. Although locals were happy for the rain, one can’t help but wonder why countries throughout Africa are not taking better advantage of methods to recapture water for future use.
In the July 29th issue of “The Week,” one of my favorite publications, an eye-opening article appeared with the above title, excerpted from a book by Charles Fishman, “The Big Thirst.” “Water warriors” like me and others spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the lack of safe water in the developing world. But what about water in our own backyard? Was there a time in the history of the United States when people died of unsafe water? Absolutely. And what did we as a nation do about it? Plenty. Unfortunately, many governments in the developing world can’t afford to help their people adequately and so they suffer.
Imagine if, here in the United States, all of the water pipes in your house
disappeared one day. Now imagine that the only way to get water for the
household was to make a daily two-hour trek on foot to the closest river. Your
daughters, your mother, and your sisters were suddenly responsible for this task,
and you helplessly watched them walk away in the mornings with empty buckets.
Development projects that bring clean and accessible drinking water to sub-Saharan African communities bring empowerment to women at both local and regional levels. Girls who might otherwise spend up to four hours a day walking to fetch water are free to spend that time in school. Women are suddenly granted more time to pursue income-generating activities, and more flexibility to apply for microcredit loans. These improvements are critical steps toward empowering women, promoting gender equality and increasing female self-sufficiency, which contribute to the overall social and economic stability of developing nations.
As the summer blockbusters debut, here are some movies on water and sanitation that you might want to catch and some from the recent past that you might remember.
Do you know how the international observance of World Water Day started? It began in 1992 as an initiative at the United Nations on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. Although the theme changes every year, it is still a time to get people to focus on the need to provide everyone on the planet with safe water.