By Eva Tolage, student activist and ONE member
My name’s Eva. I’m 17 years old. I’ve lived all my life with my family in Malinzanga, a small village in Tanzania.
Almost two years ago, I decided I wanted to do something about a problem that was stopping me and girls in my community from getting our education.
Every day, we faced a two-hour journey to fetch unsafe water. Every day it meant we missed classes at school. Even the journey to get the water was dangerous. We risked being assaulted or attacked by wild animals.
But now, we’ve changed that! I launched a campaign to make sure our leaders delivered their promise to provide clean water. I stood strong with my friends and supporters around the world – many of you will have been among them.
We demanded clean water and now we have it!
Last week a new water supply was installed near my school. My community finally has clean safe drinking water.
It’s great news for me, my education and our whole community. Now it only takes 15 minutes to collect water so we can stay in school. And because the water is clean, it will also help stop us getting diseases like diarrhea.
Getting water for my community has been an incredible journey.
When I first wrote a letter to President Barack Obama in September 2015, calling for leaders to commit and deliver their promises, I didn’t know what would happen next. Then he replied. He even mentioned my letter at the global summit where the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed. Something big like this had never happened in my family. I felt happy and it inspired me to do more locally about the lack of water.
INSPIRING: Thank you @POTUS for sharing Eva’s story! Read more here: http://t.co/IdjrmMWP86 #UNGA #GlobalGoals pic.twitter.com/pIdH6UIUBM
— ONE (@ONECampaign) September 27, 2015
Then last year, me and my classmates launched a petition to call on leaders to give us a safe water supply. I was excited when people around the world supported the campaign using #StandWithEva – in the end, with the support of my community, Restless Development and ONE, 150,000 people signed the petition! I never expected that so many people would support us, people from all over the world. We even got our District Commissioner to sign. And I traveled to Dar es Salaam to talk about the campaign with Tanzania’s Vice President.
Next, we took this all the way to the capital. 14 girls traveled to Dodoma to hand the petition to the Prime Minister and my MP and also got an opportunity to attend the parliamentary sessions and learn how our representatives participate in debates and make decisions. It is great that Tanzania has shown leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals and to secure a better future for our community.
I’ve learned that the voice of young people like me is important and should be heard. With friends, my community and supporters, we have proved that our power really can change things, that if we stand together leaders will listen. I am so grateful to every individual who in any way supported me. I know this is not my win, it is our win.
Me and millions of other young people know our rights and are not afraid to fight for them. Access to clean water is my right, and now I have it.
I am a leader and there are millions more young people like me around the world who are leading change on the issues that matter to them, just like I did. I have learned that when we use our power together, our voices become even more powerful and can make change for the better.
If we stand up and make our voices heard, we can hold our leaders to account on promises they have made to us.