What If Walking for Water Didn’t Take So Long?
Think about your average day. What if someone were to give you three and a half extra hours each day? What would you do with that time? It may seem like just a hypothetical dream, but it’s a real question for women and children in communities around the world where Nazarene churches are creating WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) programs that include safe-water wells.
In most parts of the world, the work of collecting water for the household rests on the shoulders of women and children. According to surveys from 45 developing countries, women and children do the bulk of the work of collecting water in 76% of households. In Africa and Asia, women and children walk an average of 3.7 miles a day just to collect enough water for the basics. Given the fact that a 5-gallon jerrycan or bucket of water weighs about 40 pounds, that means women and children are walking an average of 1.85 miles each day while carrying 40 pounds on their heads. Just on the continent of Africa, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.
Churches in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been installing wells that provide easy access to safe, clean water to reduce water-related illness and deaths. In the process, women are also receiving a bonus gift of “extra” time.
Women are now able to spend many more hours on productive activities such as growing food or working to earn income. A woman named Theresa in a rural community outside Freetown, Sierra Leone, tells me that the time she has saved since a Nazarene church installed a well in her community is a big deal. “With the extra time I can sell more at the market [as a petty trader]. I have more sales now.”
Sales like those mean more than just a little pocket change. They help women like Theresa fight against the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. In fact, for every $1 USD spent on water and sanitation in places like Sierra Leone, there is an economic return of at least $4 USD.
When a walk for water becomes shorter, women also have more time to help their neighbors and spend quality time with their families.
Zainabu is a mother of six children, ages 15, 10, 12, 5, 1, and 2 months, in Monkey Bush, a rural community on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone. When I ask her about the new well in her community, she says, “We are also happy for the water. The difference is so much. Now, water is constant. Before, the distance brought suffering to walk so far with water. Now I spend more time with my children because it’s close. We can spend more time as a family.”
Children also do a lot of walking for water in water-poor countries, particularly the girls. As a result, girls are often late to class, or they have to miss school altogether on some days. With easy access to water, girls have equal access to the opportunities that come with education.
More income. More time with family. More opportunities for education. All of these work together to improve lives and fight against poverty.
What if there were fewer illnesses and deaths from causes related to poor water and sanitation?
What if women had more time to earn income and spend quality time with their families?
What if girls could go to school on time, every day?
What if more churches were able to provide easy access to safe water for their communities?
What if … ?
Visit ncm.org/WASH to learn how you can provide clean, safe water for children and communities who need it most.
Follow NCM on Instagram to read more stories from Sierra Leone.
Read the current NCM Magazine to learn more about how churches in Sierra Leone are providing for the basic needs in their communities in Jesus' name.
Photos are courtesy of Jeffrey Purganan.