Today, women around the world will spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water. In our time in the field, we have seen how the water crisis in Africa steals school time from little girls and keeps mums from getting a job or just being present mothers. This International Women's Day, we are sharing that reality with you. Because while water is a human issue, it’s first and foremost, a women’s issue.
For women, the water crisis is personal. They are responsible for finding a resource their families need to survive - for drinking, cooking, sanitation and hygiene. They may stand in line and wait for water, they may walk long distances to collect water, or they may pay exorbitant amounts of money to secure water. Women and girls around the world, are disproportionately responsible for collecting water. They are considered the ‘default water fetchers’ with 8 out of 10 households without access to water relying on them for daily water collection.
As we spend this month celebrating and observing International Women’s Day and World Water Day, we want to share the reality of the impact of the water crisis on women and stories of women who have proved that they are capable of so much more, once their water burden is relieved.
Access to water creates opportunities
For most of her life, Mercy woke up at 3am to begin collecting water. Like many women in her community battling the Ghana Water Crisis, her days revolved around getting water for her family and managing illness when the water made them sick. She didn’t have time for much else.
But with access to clean water and more time, Mercy started her own business. She now has a tailoring shop that has become a social hub in the community—and the best place to get a new skirt.
Access to safe water creates hope
Meet Akati Believe from Atsiekpoe Community, Ghana. 17 years of age, Akati wants to become a fashion designer. She wants to earn money and provide a good life to her parents. Akati knows that she has to study hard and score good grades to get accepted into a fashion design school. Thankfully, now she has more time on her hands as clean water is available a short stroll away from home. Project Maji’s solar-powered water kiosk delivers clean water to her village while the Maji Buckets ensure proper hand hygiene, and her elderly parents don’t get sick as often. Her water collection and caring burden have significantly reduced. She told us:
“I am happy, I can now focus on my studies and even help around the house. I no longer have to walk up to the river twice a day. It doesn’t just feel like a dream anymore! I actually have more time to work for what I want and achieve it. I am so grateful to Project Maji for that!”
Access to safe water unlocks joy!
We met Rebecca last year in Volo Community, Ghana. 62 years of age, she said:
“I cannot remember a time when I did not have to walk to fetch water for my family. With either a 2 kg kettle when I was a little girl, or a 20-kilo bucket on my head, I have walked for water everyday nearly all my life. So has every other woman in my village."
The task of fetching water defined their lives. Even at this age, she says she would "never get five seconds to sit down and rest." This was before we installed a solar-powered water kiosk in the community earlier this year. Now that the Maji kiosk has been installed short stroll away from their house, eliminating the long water walks from their lives, she simply says: ” I am so happy, so very happy”
A crushed water crisis will have millions of women reclaim their time, peace of mind, physical safety and lost opportunities. Girls like Akati can stay in school, complete their education and get ahead in life while moms can lay back and just be hands on present moms. All we need to do is work together towards making safe water a reality for women and girls around the world. We, at Project Maji, NGO in Dubai, are doing exactly that, and we invite you to join us in building a water-secure lifeworld for women and girls In the world's most remote rural communities.