On Sunday, October 11, we celebrate UNICEF’s annual International Day of the Girl. It’s a day to be inspired by the amazing things that girls around the world are accomplishing. It’s also a day to recognize that the world still has a long way to go to achieve equality between boys and girls, and to understand the role each of us plays in eliminating the barriers that girls still face.
UNICEF’s theme for International Day of the Girl 2020 is “My voice, our equal future.” Girls’ voices are essential to establishing safe water solutions that last for generations, and safe water access empowers girls to use their voices and invest in their own bright futures.
We acknowledge the Day of the Girl because the voices of girls and women are too often silenced, particularly when decisions are made on water, sanitation, and hygiene needs around the world. Countless studies have shown that male voices are simply seen as more valuable, particularly in many of the rural communities where Water Mission works.
Yet, because women and girls shoulder the burden of collecting water in most households—water that is often far from home and contaminated—they hold the greatest firsthand knowledge about their communities’ specific water needs. Today, it is our honor to amplify the voice of one brave and bright girl: Magdelena Poul.
Eleven-year-old Magdelena lives in Tanzania. She used to miss the classes she loved so much when she had to walk three hours a day to collect water for her family—in her words, it was a “torture-like” journey. In her community, her concerns and those of other females were often neglected.
School had always been one of the most important ways for Magdelena to envision and work toward a future in which she had equal standing as the boys in her rural town. Without safe water, Magdelena was constantly missing out on invaluable educational opportunities, putting her behind her male counterparts at an early age.
But now, with safe water access, she said, “We can enjoy our lives so much more. I love school and am one of the best students in my class! With my free time, I spend much more time on my studies.”
With a Safe Water Committee established by Water Mission and comprised of both men and women from the community, Magdelena’s mother and other female residents in the town can speak directly and specifically about all water-related needs.
Girls like Magdelena, who walk miles to collect water each day, know the best location for a safe, convenient water point. Women who carefully plan out their families’ water use each morning, who consider drinking, cooking, bathing, and more, know exactly how much water a water treatment system must produce to serve the entire community.
The inclusion of female voices is paramount to Water Mission when planning water projects that will meet local needs and endure for years to come. As the Gender-Water Alliance writes, “Sustainable water management and gender equity are mutually supporting and interdependent… Involving men and women in influential roles…can hasten the achievement of sustainability.”
Magdelena’s voice truly is invaluable: one that will help bring lasting change to her rural community—and to her journey as a determined young woman. She hopes to support her family one day by becoming a doctor or a pilot, and she knows that being a girl should not hold her back from her goals. Now that collecting water no longer keeps her from school, she is one big step closer to achieving her dreams!
Access to clean, safe water is an integral part of empowering girls and women. We invite you to celebrate International Day of the Girl with us today by supporting safe water solutions.