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Thirteen-year-old Solo from Madagascar struggling to lift a jerry can of dirty water. Credit: WaterAid / Abbie Trayler-Smith

Today I walked. I walked for the sheer joy of the sun on my face and the solitude I crave to think and rejuvenate my body and mind.

I walked without fear, pain or exhaustion. I walk when I can, and wherever I want. I am not on a mission of survival. I walk for fun. For fun you ask? You bet, but try explaining that to the nearly 750 million people in world living without access to clean, safe water.

Women Walk for Water
Every day, the lives of millions of women and girls are defined by their need to walk in search of life’s most basic necessity: clean water. Their relentless, backbreaking chore of carrying water is a matter of survival, not a choice.

Too many strong women in developing countries are shackled to the burden of water collection. The time spent lugging heavy water containers weighing up to 40 pounds (18 kilograms) is time spent not earning an income, learning new skills or caring for young children.

What’s even more tragic are the girls who lose the will to continue in school when they reach puberty. In addition to frequently arriving late to school after their long walks for water, the shame and humiliation of managing their monthly periods without toilets and water becomes unbearable – their solution is miss school or drop out completely. This is just wrong! And it’s not a solution.

I have no worries about where to find water, whether it’s safe to drink or if I might be attacked while walking alone to remote ponds or rivers at dawn and dusk. For me, having safe water and a toilet is just something I take for granted multiple times a day without so much as a thought.

Hallie Tamez
Hallie Tamez will walk six miles through New York carrying a jerry can on November 21. Credit: WaterAid / Katherine Crider

For most of us it’s hard to imagine enduring a long and painful walk each day in search of water. So that’s why on November 21, 2014, I will be doing just that! My #Steps4Water will take me on a long and painful six-mile journey across Manhattan carrying 40 pounds of water in solidarity with the women and children around the world who undergo this journey every day.

I am doing this because I believe in the power and potential of women and girls to contribute to their world in ways far beyond collecting water. Every girl deserves a chance at a future with choices, not a future defined by the daily struggle for survival.

On November 21, I’m not walking for the sheer joy of the sun on my face and the solitude I crave to rejuvenate my body and mind. I am walking to highlight the daily experiences of women and girls living without clean water and raise awareness of WaterAid’s biggest #GivingTuesday challenge yet to raise $150,000 on one day for safe water and toilets for the world’s poorest families. If we do, that $150,000 will be matched.

At WaterAid, an international NGO dedicated solely to improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene education, we believe women should have time to run businesses and care for families, children should be in school and find joy in play in a safe environment.

We believe babies should live to take their first steps and that communities with the right support have the ability to manage their own water supplies. We believe everyone, everywhere can have water, toilets and hygiene by 2030.

It’s time for each of us to step up. If you are in Manhattan on November 21, take a walk with me, take a photo and upload it to social media with the hashtag #Steps4Water. If not, take a walk wherever you are and share the story of women and girls who can do so much more than carry water – they just need the chance. Together, we can all contribute to unlocking the potential of women and girls and seeing more babies live to become those strong girls and women stepping up towards a brighter future. Water is just the beginning.

Written by Hallie Tamez, Associate Director of Major Gifts, WaterAid America


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