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2021 International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Water Mission is proud to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

The women on our engineering team work hard each day to improve the world with their expertise and creativity. They directly impact global health and education by increasing safe water access for more than 2.2 billion people who lack clean, safe water.

Many women and girls walk an average of 3 miles each day to collect water. Sadly, the water they collect is often contaminated. This unsafe water causes illness, keeping girls from attending school and women from working outside the home. With access to safe water, however, the health of entire communities improves.

The theme for the United Nations 2021 International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” The COVID-19 pandemic brought the global water crisis into sharp focus in 2020, illustrating the need for hygiene training and access to clean, safe water to help prevent the spread of the virus. Water Mission’s ongoing global response to COVID-19 has created new opportunities to serve vulnerable communities.

Jessica Mahan is one such skilled Water Mission Project Engineer. “(We) have one of the best jobs,” Mahan says. “We get to support our technical staff and safe water, sanitation, and hygiene projects around the world.”

Mahan serving in Water Mission’s disaster response efforts after Hurricane Dorian the Bahamas.

In this job, every day is different. At times, Mahan works virtually with global teams, developing resources to communicate and teach technical standards. At other times, she provides support on assessments or installs new equipment in the communities we serve. During a disaster response, she’s on-site installing and operating water treatment equipment. “And always doing water quality testing,” she adds. “We are constantly making sure our water is safe.”

Mahan conducts water tests in the Abaco Islands, The Bahamas.

Mahan studied chemical engineering in college, hoping to use the knowledge to help others. After turning down a corporate engineering job and doing ministry at a local church, she found Water Mission.

She was instantly drawn to Water Mission because it uses engineering solutions to meet physical needs and is motivated by a love for God and others. Mahan started volunteering in the warehouse immediately, rewiring solar panels and assembling parts for the Living Water Treatment System and the Erosion Chlorinator. Then, she interned with the engineering team testing water quality for a variety of water treatment technologies. Eventually, she joined the team full time as a Project Engineer.

Vivian Akinyi, a Project Officer on Water Mission’s Kenya team, conducts a Restore Survey in Segera. “One of the best parts of Water Mission is the international team,” Mahan says, “all using very different gifts toward the same overall goal and ultimately connected through faith.”

Throughout her travels as a Water Mission engineer, Mahan remains amazed by people’s kindness and resilience. Her first trip was to Peru, where rural communities have extremely limited access to safe drinking water, to train a new engineer. “(They) spent all morning showing us around, telling us about their community, and were incredibly patient with my limited Spanish skills,” she recalls. “One of the families invited us for a homemade lunch in their own home.”

Girls in Tirken, Kenya. Mahan visited this community for the initial assessment and got to know the community, culture, and technical challenges for this project as Water Mission’s Kenyan team developed a solution. “Seeing those smiling faces,” Mahan says, “and knowing those girls will get to spend more time in school and less time fetching water is so encouraging.”

Mahan’s advice for girls considering a career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is to pursue the things that excite you a lot and scare you a little. “Young women are incredibly capable of doing brave things…. There is nothing better than using your unique skills and passion to serve others, so don’t let a little fear get in your way.”

Interested in learning more about the global water crisis and the best-in-class solutions Mahan and the team at Water Mission have designed to fight it? Get hands-on with a Water Mission tour or by following us on social media at @water_mission on Twitter and Instagram or @WaterMissions on Facebook.

With your partnership, Mahan and other Water Mission staff members can bring safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions to more girls around the world.