Women and girls in Olepolos Village on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, sing in gratitude for the presence of water.
Water is a basic right guaranteed to citizens under Kenyan law. Access to clean water, however, remains a challenge for remote communities.
“We usually walk several kilometers across the border to fetch water in Tanzania. Sometimes we were harassed by the people there because we were in a foreign country. We were told to collect and carry donkey dung in our shuka (traditional clothing). It’s absolute harassment,” said Olepolos resident Alice Articleoi.
“The poverty rate is very high because our livestock die due to lack of water. There may be grass, but without water, livestock cannot survive,” added another Olepolos resident, Nelson Tinayo.
Prolonged drought due to climate change exacerbates water problems in arid and semi-arid regions. Women and girls are most affected by this situation.
Water Is Life Kenyaa US-based charity, helps women and girls gain access to clean water by drilling rain-fed wells and holes, reducing the distance they have to travel to fetch water.
“Spending all day fetching water prevents many girls from going to school. We find that many women, mostly adult women in this community, have never attended school at all. So, we really want to help them go to school, so they can change their lives,” said Joyce Tannian, Co-Founder of Water Is Life Kenya.
Residents say the water project has made a big difference.
“Honestly, our lives have really changed for the better. Now our children can go to school,” said Olepolos Community Leader, Ipitek Ole Kisyoki.
“Now it feels like heaven. No problem. We fetch water, wash clothes, and the children go to school after a clean shower. We have more time. We are in a much better place and we are happy,” added another resident, Margret Kalai.
With 25 water projects completed in various villages in Kajiado County and benefiting more than 100,000 residents, Water Is Life Kenya co-founder Joyce Tannian said the work was rewarding.
“That major barrier can be removed. The water is there; now people can take it. To me it’s a dream, and, you know, that’s the best thing in real life. To achieve the results, people develop themselves, it’s a miracle,” he said.
The words of wisdom that “water is life” mean a lot to the people of Olepolos. When the women and girls of the village sing and rejoice, many people in other arid and remote areas. [ps/ka]