women and water

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.

pond water for drinking

Pond water. River water. Surface water. This was a gorgeous scene that we happened upon. A river that is no longer flowing in the dry season but still holds water for the many people who need it because there is no other source. Would you drink this water?

schoolgirls singing

These schoolgirls recited a poem and performed a song about water for us yesterday. Although our time with them was brief, it was a joy to be with them as their bright uniforms and vibrant voices lit up the field

a PUR demo

It is 5:30am, and we hit the road in an hour – a few stops in Mombasa to see some projects and then flying to Kisumu this afternoon via Nairobi. I still need to pack, dress, and eat breakfast, but I wanted to share at least something with you from yesterday.

These are two photos of Christine – she was kind enough to take us to her water source (a pond) and then do a demonstration of how she uses PUR packets to purify her drinking water. It was awesome to see the PUR change dirty, cloudy, contaminated water into clear, safe water. I will explain more of how it works at a later point in time, but check out the clear water in the second photo – the particles are now clumped together to be large enough that a cloth can filter them out.

My favorite part of this demo was when Christine said, “Before using PUR I could not finish one week without a child having diarrhea.” Safe water transforms lives.

article on care2 & water as a human right

Today my blog titled, Fighting alongside Africans for safe water was posted at Care2.com under their Causes: Human Rights section. I could not be more excited – my writing is being shared with new readers and it is in the human rights section. I write about water, people, and my journey through life. When I first hearing about this opportunity, I was told, “I am sorry – your post is going to be in the human rights section – not a perfect fit, but there is no section on water.” I have to admit, I am glad there is no section on water.

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family.” ~Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

1.5 million children die every year due to diarrheal diseases caused by lack of access to safe water and sanitation. Women spend hours every day walking to collect water – often water that is contaminated. Children stay out of school to collect water and because of illness. Although it is easy to forget when safe water flows freely from our taps, access to safe water is a necessary part of health and well-being of a family.

Although treaties focused on other issues have identified water as a human right, it was not until this summer that the UN General Assembly declared “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.” Safe water is no longer a privilege or attached to other rights; it is now a human right. There are a host of implications to water being a human right. Water is no longer something to be hoped for – it makes water a legal right, or something to be expected. It empowers people to ask for and work towards their own rights. It puts the focus on community and their right to water rather than the organization helping to provide the water. These are critical differences and beautiful reminders for all of us. And that is why I am glad my article on water was included in a human rights category.

“Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” ~Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary General

If you would like to read more on water being a human right, here are a few resources:

we won: let’s celebrate together

It feels like this has been a long time in coming, but today is it – the official announcement that I won the Give Health Blogivation through Changents. My blog post won, but it is really something we won together. Thanks for voting! The behind the scenes conversation since the competition ended in late August has been about my “come from behind win” or “sprint to the finish.” For most of the competition I remained in 2nd place, but in the final days, you rallied your family, friends, and coworkers so that, together, we could win. There were 35 bloggers, and the competition reached more than 3 million people in more than 80 countries. Your efforts raised my blog to the top.

We won, but what does that mean? Your votes are having this incredible impact:

  • The collective votes during the Give Health Blogivation account for 21,099 days of clean drinking water that will be given to people in need through P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) program – our votes account for 8,893 (42%) of those days.
  • P&G will give $15,000 to Blood:Water Mission to support our work in safe water. $1 equals 1 year of safe water for an African, so this is safe water for 1 year for 15,000 people (or 5 years of safe water for 3,000 people).
  • I will travel to Africa in November with the CSDW program to see the impact it is making through its on-the-ground partners. I will be blogging during this trip to bring you along as much as possible so that we can share this story together.
  • I have become a Change Agent – this is an incredible opportunity to share my story, share Blood:Water’s story, and rally people together to support safe water development in Africa.

We won, but what now? Your voices came together – let’s keep doing that today:

  • Spread the excitement  – share this news through the easy “share” button at the bottom of the post.
  • Go to my Changents page and become a “backer” – it is one way to support safe water and be alertedto things going on in the future. And while you are there, check out all of the other things that people are doing – they are people just like you and me, and they are doing amazing work!
  • Spread the word by twitter, facebook, email, and word of mouth. Our goal today is to have every person tell 2 other people – either about this or another story I have shared. It is a simple, tangible way for each of us to make a difference today. Do it!

Thank you for being a part of this story and helping it continue.