Big Dig Update: When women’s water and sanitation expectations are realized.....................
In communities, water supply and sanitation that is adequate, safe and easy to get to can enhance everyone’s chance of having good health and improved well being. It can prevent conflicts over water, remove physical and social barriers, and help everyone in the community equally. Clean drinking water and basic sanitation are necessary to prevent communicable diseases and to maintain a healthy life. For many of the world’s poorest people, one of the greatest environmental threats to health remains the continued use of polluted water. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of the world’s households have to source for water outside their homes. More often than not, these sources are highly contaminated and a threat to health. According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), 37% per cent of the developing world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 780 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. These deficiencies result in hundreds of millions of cases of water-related illness and more than 5 million deaths every year. But all hope is not lost as WaterAid, an international NGO dedicated exclusively to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people continues to take giant strides towards saving millions lives of through their ground-breaking water and sanitation intervention efforts.
A big thing always starts small and that maxim goes for WaterAid’s “The Big Dig” appeal which got underway three months ago in the United Kingdom, precisely on June 18th, 2012. The initial mark of raising £1,200,000 for the implementation of water and sanitation intervention projects was smashed well ahead of the 18th September, 2012 deadline. Consequently, a new appeal target of £2,000,000 was set, but still within the confines of the earlier time limit. By the close of the appeal, £2,170,556 had been raised giving a secured hope for transforming many more lives in rural communities across Malawi. It is of significance that on the ground transformation ran concurrently with the fundraising; as inhabitants of Kaniche and Bokola immediately keyed into the water and sanitation revolution; when it was presented at their doorsteps. The Big Dig project has helped the indigenous women come alive and they have been exceptional in their commitment to its success. This is quite understandable considering that access to adequate supplies of clean, safe water and basic sanitation facilities are very important to women.
The money raised is already being channeled towards making safe and water and sanitation facilities more available and accessible to indigenous women and their communities. The drilling of boreholes in Kaniche commenced amidst much euphoria from everyone, particularly women and children. The moment water was struck, they jostled to catch the falling stream. For the first time in their lives, they had the benefit of unrestricted, unlimited and sustained access to clean and safe water. The water is flowing and the women are going with the flow. In reaction to the realization of their expectation, women in Kaniche are agog with palpable ecstasy and celebrations. They are finding their voices, sharing responsibilities, following their passions, taking on leadership, taking action, becoming perceptible and even more determined. With a newly found sense of living, they are beginning to dream again and make choices! The end has come for consumption of contaminated water. No longer would they have to spend invaluable hours taking burdensome walks to collect water from unsafe sources. They no longer have to worry about bouts of diarrhea and cholera that habitually plague their children. Now children would no longer be late to school because of unending search for water. Notably too, the women can now have ample time to engage in other productive activities.