To celebrate World Water Day, we have a guest post from Jonny McKay of Excellent Development. Excellent Development support communities in Kenya to build Sand Dams which provide clean water for life and the opportunity to grow more food to eat, store and sell.
For women in the world’s rural drylands, life is defined by the burden of collecting water. For the old and the young, the sick and the healthy, it is a chore with no relief. Even when pregnant, women must trek over long distances in order to provide their families with water.
The strain of this arduous task has terrible health consequences for women. Often alone, some give birth on the journey to or from water points. In the drylands of Ukambani, Kenya, the children of these women are called Mwanzia, which means ‘born on the way.’
We recently spoke to Jane Kinongo, a member of the Ithime Self Help Group in Kenya, who told us something of the impacts water insecurity has for women in her community.
Jane said: “As women it was our duty to fetch water using our back. We would even go to fetch water while pregnant. Sometimes we would be forced to fetch water even when having labour pains. Sometimes someone would miscarry or have a still birth at home due to the long distance.”
About 66 percent of Africa is arid or semi-arid drylands like the area where Jane lives. More than 38 percent of people living in these drylands suffer with water insecurity – meaning that they have less than 1,000 m3 per capita and do not have a reliable source of clean water close to home.
For Jane, this used to mean walking up to 6km carrying 20kg of water on her back each day. It is estimated that more than 152 million hours of women and girls’ time is consumed every day in the same way — collecting water to meet their families’ basic needs. Because of this, millions of women are inhibited from accomplishing little more than survival.
With the same access to resources as men, women could grow 30 percent more food and reduce global hunger by 150 million people. Yet, wherever they work, they face constraints that reduce their productivity and limit their contributions to the well-being of their families, communities and countries, agricultural production, and economic growth.
Jane’s self-help group is a cooperative of eight women and one man, supported by Excellent Development. They came together in 2009 to overcome their water insecurity by constructing Sand Dams, planting trees and digging terraces. With her self-help group, she has helped build seven Sand Dams, bringing water within 30 minutes for families in her community.
Jane said: “Since the construction of the [Sand] Dams, life has changed dramatically because we now draw water closer to our homes. The health problems [women] faced then have ceased to exist…now the women can rest for three months after giving birth…the problems faced [before] are never.”
More than one in six people worldwide – 894 million – don’t have access to improved water sources.But, for those children born on the way, women like Jane are building water security and a new way of life in rural Kenya. A life in which women no longer give birth alone, far from home, on a journey to find water.