One of our volunteers shared a moment he witnessed in Africa as he watched a young mother head up a mountain on her bicycle. According to him, this young mom was riding a bicycle but it was loaded down with firewood. Trudging up a mountain on a bicycle loaded with wood is difficult enough but in addition to carrying the firewood, she was also using her left arm to carry a large box. Oh, and she was also breastfeeding her baby. All of this on a bike headed up a mountain.
These are the women of Africa. They are women that do things that seem impossible. It’s these women you see working the fields, caring for the children, running the household and making sure their daily lives are in order.
But as easy as these women make it seem, there is no doubt how difficult obtaining basic needs like water can be. And how much water affects their daily life.
For the women of Africa, the day begins long before sunrise. The walks are long, often miles, so the women leave their homes in the wee hours of the morning, headed out into complete darkness to find five gallons of water for one day for their family.
The walk to get water starts in the darkest of dark. No electricity around, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Walking for miles in the dark in lands occupied by deadly poisonous snakes, wild pigs, hyenas, lions and more. For some, the only water source are dirty rivers, often with crocodiles lurking.
Women also face the possibility of an assault. Walking alone and in the dark can leave a woman vulnerable if there is someone out there that might think to do them harm.
These women step out every morning knowing what they face. Just to get a five gallon bucket of water for their family. Dirty water. Water that’s been shared with animals and riddled with mud and dirt. It’s scary and it’s hard work. The bucket to get water weighs around forty pounds, carried on their head and usually with a baby on their back.
All this to get water. The time spent fetching water keeps women from their work in the field, keeps them from doing housework and keeps the children from attending school. Just to get water that brings illness and diseases. But it’s what they have to do. Without that water, they die. They aren’t putting their lives and their families’ lives at risk for a luxury or a desire. It’s an important need.
These women have to work so very hard every day of their life. They are strong and resilient and exude so much grace. They deserve some relief. They deserve the ability to have water without facing death or an attack or lost income from work or sacrificing their children’s education.