Human Rights Day in South Africa (21 March) coincided with National Water Week this year. To mark the occasion of both human rights and water, the DESNET Foundation and the South African Young Water Professionals collaborated on an event in the Kloofendal Nature Reserve called Walk for Water.
The aim was to raise awareness about the plight of women who still have to walk to fetch water for household consumption – where time collecting water is time lost.
Three IWSN Africa representatives took part in the event. One of the goals for the walk was to carry five litres of bottled water across a 5.2km hiking trail and then, at the finish line, donate the water to a local community in suburban Johannesburg.
It is heartbreaking that on Human Rights Day, we have to hear accounts of women who have no freedom of choice with regards to their human right for access to water and sanitation services. The CEO and Founder of the DESNET Foundation told the story of a 78-year-old woman (Gogo) living in suburban Johannesburg who still has to walk to the Jukskei River to collect her household water for the week. She collects the water in a 20L container which then stands outside her dwelling. When the DESNET Foundation visited her they found mosquito larvae already in the water but the woman explained that she can only go to the river once a week and has to make do with what she is able to collect. South African water law makes provision for 25L of water per person per day and yet Gogo has 20L of river water for seven days.
As we set off on the walk, people started swapping stories of how they had experienced collecting water with their mothers as children, in rural and peri urban villages in South Africa and Zimbabwe. A number of female participants decided to carry their 5L bottles on their head and one woman even had her 2-year-old daughter with her. After carrying just 5L of water for 5km in a backpack, I found myself huffing and puffing towards the finish line, eager to donate my precious cargo. IWSN Africa was proud to have participated in, and contributed to, this event. With over 120 participants, the walk raised close to 400L of clean fresh bottled water which was being donated to deserving women like Gogo.