Written by Alanna Imbach, Media & Communications Officer, WaterAid America
In a few short days, I will be heading to a country as rich in beauty as it is in possibility. And like so many other places in the world, much of that possibility lies in the hands of the women and girls who live there.
For months, I’ve been reading reports about the women that my organization, WaterAid, has been supporting in one of the poorest, hardest to reach and most diverse parts of Nicaragua. From what I can tell, these women aren’t just out to change the world: they’re doing it.
Take, for example, a group of women in Auhya Pihni. Not only did they learn how to install and maintain simple water pumps, drill borehole wells and install eco-toilets through WaterAid’s skills training program, but they’ve turned their newly honed skills right around, using them to train and subcontract their spouses and siblings to help them carry out maintenance and installation work, too. In the blink of an eye, they have become mentors for their daughters and leaders in their communities, taking up roles that have traditionally been reserved only for men. It’s a business model my mother would love.
Together with Mom Bloggers for Social Good Global Team of 200 member, Jennifer Barbour, freelance journalist Caitlin Kelly, photographer Rodrigo Cruz and WaterAid, I’ll be observing World Water Day in the company of the real warriors in the global water and sanitation crisis: women and girls who are changing the face of one of the poorest countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region—one well, rainwater catchment system and toilet at a time.
Years of insufficient public investment, contamination from mining and agricultural activities, and extensive deforestation and soil erosion have left as many as 80% of people living in rural parts of the country without water that is safe for human consumption.
Equally alarming, nearly half of the country has no ‘adequate’ place to go to the bathroom, resulting in the spread of preventable disease, lower rates of girls attending school beyond puberty and a heightened risk of gender-based violence.
All of this is especially bad news for women and girls, who are the ones most often tasked with collecting water from far-off water sources, expected to care for sick family members and who have specific health needs when pregnant or raising small children.
Like many places around the world, though, women in the Miskitu communities are undaunted by the challenges before them. Instead, they are actively seeking out WaterAid’s mentorship in setting up Community Water and Sanitation User Committees, developing action plans to train and assist the local government in how to manage, operate and maintain water and sanitation services, and creatively promoting healthy hygiene practices like hand washing within their hometowns.
This March 22 will be a celebration of so much more than water. We’ll be celebrating the everyday #waterstory of people around the globe, and the transformative power of women and girls in Nicaragua to finally put an end to the water and sanitation crisis. Join us March 16 – 23 by following #WaterAidNica or Jennifer’s blog, and tune in for a live World Water Day Twitter chat about the trip and the women we’ve met along the way March 21, 1-2 p.m. ET.
Photo credit: WaterAid / Alicia Zamora