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International Women’s Day: Celebrating Female Change-Makers

Women in Malawi

Eleven-year-old Magdelena used to sacrifice school days to spend hours collecting water for her family in Mkinga, Tanzania.

Magdelena at school
Magdelena (left) loves school more than anything but used to sacrifice class time to collect dirty water.

Hortencia, a single mother of six, worked tirelessly to provide for her family in El Encanto, Mexico — but nothing she did could keep her children safe from waterborne illnesses.

Hortencia and her family
Hortencia and her family

Their stories are the tragic reality of women and girls all over the world, who are disproportionally affected by the global water crisis. Women bear the primary responsibility for collecting water, cooking, and caring for their families, and the lack of safe water dramatically impacts their health, safety, and economic opportunities.

But around the world, strong women are changing this reality.

Women in Kenya

They are the engineers, technicians, and community development specialists working to bring safe water solutions to more people every day.

Faviola Mendez Estrada, safe water system operator in Guadelupe-Victoria, Mexico
Faviola Mendez Estrada, safe water system operator in Guadelupe-Victoria, Mexico

They are the community members leading Safe Water Committees to oversee the maintenance, operations, and financial sustainability of their local safe water treatment systems into the future.

They are also the volunteer water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) promoters educating local schools, health clinics, and families on key health information and hygienic practices.

Leydi (right, standing) of Water Mission's Peru team trains a group of women as community WASH promoters!
Leydi (right, standing) of Water Mission’s Peru team trains a group of women as community WASH promoters!

Their influence within their communities has uniquely equipped women to create lasting change for themselves and the generations to come.

“Women play key roles in obtaining and managing safe water,” Susan Audo, Water Mission’s WASH specialist in Uganda, shared. “They are included as a right and practical matter, as most [unsuccessful] water projects fail because they did not include women. Women are given key positions to make decisions for the community, and they help in breaking down the social messaging that water work belongs only to women.”

Collecting water in Uganda
Collecting water in Uganda

Regardless of what role they hold — whether engineering solutions, volunteering in the community, or serving their families — women are dedicated to bringing safe water to those in need.

Vivian, a project officer on Water Mission's Kenya team, administers surveys to determine the long-term viability of safe water projects & well-being of communities
Vivian (left), a project officer on Water Mission’s Kenya team, administers surveys to determine the long-term viability of safe water projects & well-being of communities

In Indonesia, Water Mission’s project engineer Ruth Sitorus is using her civil engineering degree to design custom safe water solutions for rural, often isolated communities throughout her country.

Ruth at a community dinner in Indonesia
Project engineer Ruth Sitorus at a community dinner in Indonesia

And in Kenya, Eunice Naibei is using her passion for safe water and business skills to advance her community and her family. She helped Water Mission pilot a new training program for WASH volunteers, equipping them to launch their own small businesses for additional income. Eunice has worked diligently with other community volunteers to sell homemade soap while they share health and hygiene information, and her work has made a lasting difference in her town. Now, she sends her children to school with her earnings.

Eunice's children can now attend schools like this one!
Eunice’s children can now attend schools like this one!

When asked about her work with communities in Uganda, Susan said, “I count myself very lucky to be part of a program that is providing the basic needs for the most vulnerable people. My work is important to me because I know it has a ripple effect that impacts the lives of many families. Women and girls used to spend hours every day waiting in the wee hours of the night, traveling to water sources, waiting in line, and carrying heavy loads often numerous times a day. With sustainable and safe water sources, the women no longer walk long distances. They get enough time to sleep, and they have the time to do other productive work and leisure [activities].”

Susan Audo, Water Mission Uganda
WASH specialist Susan Audo (left)

“Safe water is changing women’s lives and their daily chores,” Vicky Espinoza, our community development coordinator in Peru, said. Sometimes they say, ‘I don’t need to walk long distances for water,’ or ‘My children are healthy and ready for school.’ I feel blessed to see all these changes in the lives of women, children, and whole communities. Women feel that they are caring for their families [now], and they are proud of that.”

Vicky teaches healthy water, sanitation, and hygiene behaviors
Community development coordinator Vicky Espinoza teaches healthy water, sanitation, and hygiene behaviors

In Tanzania, safe water means that Magdelena now has the time to go to school. Today, she’s the best student in her class and is well on her way to achieving her dreams of becoming a doctor or a pilot.

Magdelena studying
Magdelena studying & pursuing her dreams of being a doctor or pilot

In Mexico, Hortencia’s children are much healthier now that they have safe water. And in between her many jobs, Hortencia volunteers on the Safe Water Committee to express her gratitude and serve her community.

Hortencia drinking safe water!
Hortencia drinking safe water

This International Women’s Day, join us in celebrating the impact of women around the world!

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