How scarcity of water affects the girl child and the communities they live in.
Story by; Frederick H
The availability of safe and clean water is a basic necessity for all living beings, regardless of age, gender and place. Our wellbeing and all that we consume rotates around clean water which in the long run plays a significant impact on the state of our health. In the last week, I have taken keen interest in the news broadcasts coming out of East Africa, one aspect stood out – the drought in the Turkana region of Kenya. A pastoralist community without readily reliable sources of clean water. Broadcasts of thirsty children crawling around their malnourished mothers sent cold shivers through out my body. Mothers sat helpless with abandoned cooking pots, and girls lay there, with no energy to carry out the chores they were tasked to do. The reporters emphasized the impact of the drought. In a long time, the region has not had rain, the valley dams are a mystery, and absence of water has made it so hard for families to live life in full. In this part of Kenya, women are fully in charge of homes, whereas men take care of cattle and provide security in their different homesteads. Modernity has also come with new changes and challenges at the same time. Children in different homesteads have been able to access education, attaining different skills in the long run. Girls are nevertheless confined to the domestic arena. In the Turkana region, they are tasked with trekking considerable distances to avail water for domestic use, while at home, they make sure available food is cooked and served to those available. In the wake of their education, they still have to get themselves ready for school, take care of hygiene in the home but also prioritise their personal hygiene. How possible is it, for the girl child to live a healthy life in a region that has been hit by a severe water crisis?
It is hard for one live under such circumstances, whether female or male. In different parts of the world, different areas are faced with scarcity of water as a result of different circumstances. Whereas natural disasters have contributed greatly to scarcity of water, the level of service provision and commitment of those mandated to avail public water supplies to different areas in a country cannot be over looked. In broader terms, the most affected in the communities are those that are most vulnerable, the children, women, the elderly and the sick. Remember all these vulnerable people at one time in a home have to rely on the strength of the girls in a home. In this case, in the Turkana region, the girls retain the role of caregivers in the different homesteads. Even when I close my eyes, I can see the burden they carry on their shoulders in times of scarcity. In the natural sense, grappling with periods every month is a great concern where girls have access to clean water, what of circumstances where there is a scarcity of water?
At Prince Wako foundation, we have tasked ourselves to understanding the reality of those we have dedicated our cause to, the girl child. Our thought driven research has not only given us impetus to look for better solutions, but also identify gaps that can be closed completely at individual or community level. We know what it entails to avail water to a homestead during times of scarcity. Time spent/wasted in travelling to access clean water is considerable. Remember these girls have to attend school, at the same time do home chores. Since the customs under which they have been raised dictate that their abilities are restricted in the domestic arena, which is wrong, the long run finds them having no time for school or any other related school activity. Such a scenario has contributed to the high numbers of school drop outs amongst girls. It is a complete chain that can be broken by availing reliable water sources near homesteads in dry areas like the Turkana region of Kenya.
The scarcity of water in the Turkana region has exposed a lot of weakness and opened wounds that will take time to heal, on top of hunger, health problems are inevitable. Girls are supposed to care for homes in these circumstances, this only builds anxiety and stress in their lives which creates barriers that cannot be broken. Working or walking to school without a proper bathe, without drinking safe water will always have devastating effects on the way the body of any human being works. This means that a lot of other work will remain at a standstill due to lack of water, not forgetting food shortages. How then can the girl child survive under such conditions? What more can we do to see to it that remedies are in actual sense implemented? Our reliability on personal abilities has limitations that is why at Prince Wako foundation we believe in collective efforts without discrimination. Societies shape us but knowledge is a tool that we should use to make this world a better place for everyone to live. The girls in the Turkana region of Kenya do not deserve to starve or live without cleaning up due to a scarcity of water. In actual sense the better the condition for them the better the position of the region or country in terms of development. The scarcity can be remedied within the required time through valley dams and boreholes.
In other areas faced with scarcity of water like Kaliro in Uganda, one finds that there are boreholes in this area, but they are not enough to serve the entire population. This results into conflicts at boreholes. Those girls that wake up early to fetch water or leave school to rush to bore holes in the evening to fetch water find a rough time once it comes to the competition they find there. With several homes piling pressure on their daughters to get home earlier, many lose their patience which results into unending fights and conflicts. These result into injuries which are of grave health concern. I have seen girls in the sandy plains of Butaleja struggling to fetch water at the same water source that cattle and goats rush to, to quench their thirst. This should not be the reality but in actual sense it is. In a society that heavily relies on a girl child as the care giver, scarcity of water not only affects the girls directly, but the economy of the society since productivity in the homes slows down.
There is always a solution to every pressing problem, no matter the magnitude. Look around you and opt to live a solution oriented life. What we do does not only single out current problems but goes ahead to provide and implement reliable solutions. Scarcity of water is a real threat to the existence and co-existence of families in rural areas, where gender inequality is still strong. We call upon you that have walked with Prince Wako foundation all along to open your eyes to the devastating effects scarcity of water has had on girl child empowerment. Donations can be made, boreholes cane be set up, piped water cane be extended, but all these need collective efforts. I challenge you that has been touched by the different broadcasts from the Turkana region, you that has passion for girl child empowerment and community development, to join the cause Prince Wako foundation is championing. This year we have projects aimed at extending reliable sources of Water to different selected villages in Kaliro district, Uganda. Join this cause by being part of our upcoming projects. In case of any inquiries, do not hesitate to contact us.