Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The power of (clean) water: Add 15 years to your life

The following is a sample post that I wrote for the Global Poverty cause at, which will hopefully be launched soon!

How many times would you have to walk back and forth to the sink in order to spend 25% of your life collecting water? How many hours of sleep would you lose, classes would you miss, careers would you forego and dreams would you sacrifice, if you cut off 25% of your life (or even 6 hours of your day tomorrow)?

Now imagine that your water source isn't actually a sink, but a remote collection point that you had to trek 5 miles to, along treacherous paths (not roads), in all types of weather conditions, only to wait in queues for hours upon arrival, and then have to haul up to 45 pounds of water on your head back home.

And although access to safe water is often considered an after thought to issues such as employment, literacy, crop productivity, access to finance and entrepreneurship, a look at the figures above quickly proves that all of the aforementioned interventions are diminished (if not eliminated) when women spend 25% of their lives collecting water.

With this as a backdrop, I walked in to the eloquent, security-guarded doors of the Panafric Hotel in Nairobi, and listened intently as four organizations presented innovations for delivering water more effectively to the base of the pyramid. As part of the Ripple Effect project (which, full disclosure, my employer sponsors), these organizations are exploring new models to fix an age old problem; models such as a franchising kiosk distribution points in informal settlements, or redesigned / easier to carry 10 litter jerrycans, or remodeled water carts or water storage facilities. And it's working already. Over the past week, each project has begun pilot testing and has already sold to thousands of customers.

While there is still a behemoth amount of progress mandated in order to begin chipping away at the 1.1 billion worldwide who are without clean water, progress starts with a step. And Saturday was a celebration of just that: a step in regaining the lives of women worldwide who are denied the opportunities and joys of everyday life.

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