The Big Dig Stirred Up Malawian Women
Water is necessary for Life and all organisms need water to survive. There is therefore no gainsaying that Water is Life! In most parts of the world, the responsibility of collecting water for cooking, cleaning, health and hygiene and even growing food rests on the shoulders of women and girls. Water is an all too important need of women, yet access remains a mirage for most; especially in rural communities. Such situations have confined many women to poverty levels that are quite disturbing. Globally, water supply coverage is a socio economic performance indicator, and I cannot agree any less that for consequential development to take place in any society, obstacles to women’s access to natural resources, in particular water must be eliminated.
Sometime last week, in the company of Helen (the leader of a local women’s group our organization has been supporting), I went on a monitoring and evaluation visit of an ongoing Demonstration Farm Project located in a village at the suburbs of Kaduna town (Nigeria). Having completed our task, we visited the home of one of the beneficiaries, a widow, and asked for water to wash our hands. As I stared at the content in the bucket her children brought to us, I got lost in thought wondering about its source and how in the world I could use such muddy water to wash my hands. Suddenly, Helen’s words jostled me back, as she whispered, “I know what you are thinking, but that’s the water the woman and her children drink; same for all others in this community”. Though in my years of community development work, I have witnessed time and time again, the reality of people having to depend on water collected from very questionable sources; each experience comes with new concerns. This is one of the foremost reasons why I am an enthusiast of WaterAid’s Big Dig Project which is aimed towards transforming the lives of over 134,000 people in rural Malawi.
Since The Big Dig Appeal was launched on June 18th, 2012 in the, United Kingdom, on the ground actions and efforts of women in Kaniche and Bokola communities in Malawi have continued to show that women are a driving force for and champions of change. Kaniche and Bokola women are determined and are relentlessly leading the way in the struggle to bring safe water and sanitation to their communities. It is heartwarming to see that the women are no longer simply confined to their traditional roles! Their commitment is deep seated and they are involved in all the ongoing project planning and implementation efforts and activities of The Big Dig: advocacy, meetings, campaigns, learning, sharing, digging, building e.tc. Of course, when women show the way or are shown the way, they go all the way and tremendous change is inevitable. They don’t just watch the change happen, but they make it happen!
With £1,819,095 (made up of public donations and the UK Government’s pound for pound matched giving) already raised in The Big Dig Appeal by today, women and girls in Kaniche and Bokola are closer to a lifetime of change! The very burdensome walks they embark on daily, to contaminated water sources is about becoming a thing of the past. A new and promising future is about to break, in which they will be able to easily and contentedly fill their cups, water bottles, buckets, bowls, basins, kegs and barrels with clean water. It is pertinent to also mention, that the issue of sanitation which is also being addressed by The Big Dig signifies an end to the indignity and dangers associated with the practice of women relieving themselves in the open.