The water crisis is often told through the eyes of women – women who walk many hours and long miles to gather water, often dirty, for their families. The HIV/AIDS crisis is often told through the eyes of women – grandmothers carrying for their orphaned grandchildren and mothers unable to care for children. No, these are not crises that exclusively impact one gender, but the burden of both is high for women and their stories, faces, and images are compelling.
This short, three day trip that brought me to both the eastern and western side of Kenya and on the road with four local organizations and one international business, brought these women and their stories front and center. Normally my trips are filled with organizations and strategies and plans, but this time I was along to just see, experience, and learn. As I sit back and flip through my memories of this trip, it is the women that come to my mind. Their smiles, laughter, strength, and depth of story. Everywhere we went the women filled the space with life.
There were young girls walking home from school hand in hand whispering stories. Teens who recited poems and performed dramas to teach others how to treat their water to make it safe for drinking. A young woman who joined the men’s acrobatic and tae-kwon-do team. Women standing with vibrant colored skirts as they talked. Young mothers and old grandmothers holding children they loved. Women of all ages washing clothes, carrying dishes, and gathering water. Pregnant mothers and grandmothers who had HIV and were fighting to live fully for their families. Weaved through all of these women was strength and character and smiles. Yes, there are hardships in each of these stories. To deny that would be to deny a significant part of each woman. But to glorify those hardships denies their strength – a much larger part of who they are.
I cannot blame anyone for using the stories and images of women to talk about the water and HIV/AIDS crises. That is what I do here today. I just hope that the telling of the story brings out the strength of the women. I hope that is what you see through these photos today.