Next time you’re sitting at your desk at work feeling a bit thirsty, think about this.
You get up to go and get a drink of water. An hour later, your boss is thinking, “Sheesh, she’s taking a while!” Two hours later, still no sign of you. Three hours later, you finally plonk back down at your desk, glass of water in hand. Three hours.
During those three hours, you’ve been on your feet the whole time – walking for kilometres down dusty roads, a busy highway, a rocky path. About 30 minutes into your walk, you passed a river and thought about grabbing water from there but it’s filthy with animal excrement and people washing themselves.
You carried on another hour to the nearest tap with clean drinking water, only to find it’s dry – no water today. You finally got lucky at another tap where they were charging a fortune for their water, but after an hour and a half of walking, that’s your only option.
Want to know what that long walk actually feels like? Watch this short video:
I can’t help but think about this since I visited Ethiopia earlier this year. That’s where I met Aleyka, the young girl featured in the video. Aleyka is only 12 years old, yet it is up to her to collect all the water her family needs for cooking, cleaning and drinking. She doesn’t have a tap in her house to get water. In fact, there is no water in her whole village.
Aleyka is one of many women and girls I met whose responsibility it is to collect water for their families each and every day. Depending on where in the village they live, that walk can take up to four hours. That doesn’t leave much time or energy to study or go to school.
When I was a child, I thought it was a huge responsibility to collect the milk each morning from our driveway. I remember walking to the letterbox, carefully picking up the white bottle with its silver lid, and carrying it back up the path to my mum.
Aleyka’s responsibilities are on a whole other level. I trailed her on her three-hour walk – along those dusty roads, that busy highway, that rocky path. I felt her despair when we reached the tap only to find it was dry. (We eventually found another water point that was working, but charged double the rate she normally pays.) I saw her exhaustion when we got back and couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact she’d be doing that all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
If Aleyka had a clean and reliable source of water in her village, it could mean a three-hour daily chore is turned into a 10-minute one. That would give her almost three more hours in the day to study, rest or play. She is only 12 after all.
ChildFund Australia is raising funds to build a water system in Aleyka’s village that will improve the health, education and wellbeing of every child in her village.Please donate to help make this happen: www.childfund.org.au/appeal
Alicia Goss is the Supporter Development Manager at ChildFund Australia, an international development organisation that puts children at the centre of its work. Alicia travelled to Ethiopia to document the stories of women and girls who spoke out about the daily burden of walking hours each day to collect water for their families’ needs. Follow ChildFund Australia on Twitter: @ChildFundAU
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