I used to have to get up at 3 a.m.
In my community women were expected to provide water every morning for their husbands. Lack of it often resulted in quarrels - I often had it hectic with my husband when there was no water.
Fetching water took up most of women's days. Some were bitten by snakes during their dark dawn journey to the river, others fell down from fatigue -injuring themselves and breaking their water pots and calabashes. Girls were also expected to carry water and so very few enrolled in schools. In many deprived communities only one woman is educated for every 30 men. Female teachers were rare - I was the only one in my school.
| We suffered most
from water shortages during the long dry season from November to March.
Women quarrelled, beat or injured each other and broke each other's containers
and calabashes in the 'mad'rush for water. As it was so scarce we were forced
to collect dirty water which posed severe health hazards. Sanitary facilities
were generally non-existent. Diarrhoea, dysentery, Guinea worm and cholera
were rife and often killed because we didn't have health facilities. My
children and others in the neighbourhood were severely malnourished.
In 1994 I heard about the work of the charity WaterAid in Ghana. I quickly organized our community and applied
for assistance. After several meetings, the project was agreed and the first two wells were dug by hand.
The community provided labour, contributed funds and bought the handpumps. WaterAid provided skilled labour and materials and Rural Aid, its partner, monitored the project, provided support and lined the wells. The community maintains and manages the handpumps, using funds that the people contribute monthly to pay for repairs.
On the first day after the handpump was installed, I woke at 6 a.m. and cried aloud thinking I was too late to fetch water from the river. Then I realized that, in their excitement, my children had already woken, filled the pots with clean water and were already preparing breakfast.
I felt so happy having water at my doorstep, 24 hours a day, and knowing that I was safe from waterborne diseases. More value was added to my life when I had access to a toilet.
Life in my community has been peaceful since. Fighting, quarrels, snakebites, tiredness and waterborne diseases are things of the past. Men and children fetch water for their needs and there is a remarkable increase in school enrolment for both boys and girls. Our primary school is now fully staffed: teachers accept jobs because there is water nearby.
My children and I now go to school as early as 7 a.m. I have time to organize groups of children for extra-curricular activities like science clubs, drama groups, sports and clean-up campaigns. I help train teachers and teach women in my community and am also educating people about the need for toilets.
Because of WaterAid's approach, women's lives, in particular, have been greatly enhanced. They now have time to look after their families and earn money by weaving or farming.
Previously they were seen as unintelligent: now they are seen as equals. They are involved in decision-making and can take leadership - unthinkable before. I have been elected to represent my community in the District Assembly.
Debates and decision-making have been strengthened and communities are encouraged to manage local and environmental resources. This, in turn. has led to industry, improved living conditions and better health.
Life without water used to be awful, I had no time for myself and was always depressed, worrying where I could get it. I didn't think I was capable of anything. Now I am so surprised by what I can do - and very happy.
Our Planet 1996 Water Issue Our Planet 1998 Freshwater Issue
AAAS: Freshwater AAAS: Freshwater wetlands AAAS Mangroves and Estuaries
Water Aid Roundabout Outdoor PDF Version