Thursday, February 11, 2010

Water Is Life: Women-waterbearers of life

Women all over the world are living in slavery. They are slaves to the backbreaking often dangerous job of providing water for their families daily. In countries whose governments are corrupt, the environment is devastated, and the water is not fresh and in many instances in scarce supply. In households where traditions preclude them from education, economic opportunity, and equality in any form. And they are the missing link in regards to the economic success they and many of these countries could have if only this tragedy were given the attention it deserves.

The typical day of a woman living in one of these countries begins at about 2AM every morning. She awakens to make a trek to a water source with her five gallon Gerry can in order to collect water for the family for the day. It won’t go far depending on the number of children she has, and she may even have to forfeit using any of it in order to provide for their needs first. She treks along rocky terrain with her can sometimes with others, sometimes alone, or with her daughter who doesn’t attend school in order to help with this task. The trek can be dangerous, with them taking a chance on being raped, robbed or worse. Once she reaches the water source she must stand in line waiting for her turn to fill her can of what is many times polluted water that may well give her children dysentery. But it is all they have.

Once she fills her can she must then make the backbreaking trek back to her village once again. Her trip can take her anywhere from six to nine hours a day not including her other chores in bringing up her children, providing for them, many times harvesting any crops grown, feeding them whatever they have, and providing spiritual guidance. This then takes time away from her and her daughter having opportunity in education or in pursuing any sort of life where they can contribute to advancing their own lot in life.

And this is their life, every day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, every year.

It is hard for many in this world of plenty to relate to the lives of women who must struggle for all they have and who are denied their identity and their dreams. For us, getting up in the morning and turning on our showers or our taps is something we don’t even think about because the water is always there. We don’t think of the water used for cooking or bathing, or washing, or doing other tasks that people in these countries wouldn’t ever have a chance to do. While we waste water on golf courses, in pools, and to build desert resorts, water is gold to those who live in countries where there isn’t even enough for the basic necessities of life.

Which is why in this age of climate change, global warming, population increases, and agricultural challenges, the plight of women in regards to water and how it relates to global poverty and injustice must be addressed in order for us to begin to see the solutions to the social ills that have plagued all of us for so long to bring us true freedom. It may be hard to think that a toilet or a water pipe could be the key to such freedom. Perhaps that is because it is so simple, so easy, so logical, and so morally right.

No one should go without the basic human right of water, and particularly no one should have to work so hard every day risking death to obtain it. My hope is that in this century, we can finally realize our true potential as humans, and finally recognize why we are here and see the day when no woman has to risk her life to have the basic necessities to live and not just survive.

This is why I am starting this weekly series on Current for the month of February in the Water Is Life Group. To give attention to those in our world who are too often forgotten.

To my sisters around the world who do so much for so many with so little.

This entry has been an introduction with an explanation of what women face in regards to the time spent collecting water. Next week I hope to present some stories of women who live this life, and to end it with showing what some groups are doing through sanitation and access to clean water that then gives them the chance to get the education and opportunity they need to lift themselves out of poverty and into hope.

Edit: This is still a work in progress, not forgotten.

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