This is one of the reasons why my wife, kids, and I started One Day’s Wages. It’s because we believe in local heroes like Diana Keesiga who was born in Western Uganda and at a very young age decided she wanted to be an engineer. She defies the dangerous stereotypes that we have about Africans being absolutely lost and helpless without Western saviors or only looking for handouts. Diana has a love and understanding of her Ugandan people and culture that we will never fully grasp – which is why its best for us to come alongside people like Diana but we should never take their place.
In doing the work of justice, one of the most fundamental questions we must ask is this:
“Who are we trying to elevate? The people we serve or ourselves?“
I dare you to watch this short video (above) about Diana and the water partnership between One Day’s Wages and The Adventure Project – that is currently being featured on Upworthy. There are many but here are four reasons why I love this partnership:
1 in 3 water wells are broken in Africa
While there are few things in development as spectacular as seeing water gush out of the ground after a well is drilled, what happens in year 2, 5, and 10 is far more important and difficult. By many reports, over one-third of all wells drilled in the last twenty years are now broken – 50,000 are currently broken in Africa alone, preventing access to clean water for millions of people. Some experts say as much as 60% of wells in the developing world aren’t working. Wells often break within a few years and in most instances, there are no trained mechanics, spare parts, or tools nearby…or the local community is not invested enough to maintain the well.
That’s why good community development must work with communities to equip people to care for their water systems, long after the “grand opening” ribbon-cutting ceremonies have faded from memory. If some organization comes in, drills wells, and doesn’t teach people the importance of clean water or teach how to care for the systems from a community level, it’s a disservice to the community.
For those that aren’t good at math, that’s 1 out of every three water wells. Like a lot. Like 33% a lot.While there’s value in creating new water solutions, it’s also smart for many reasons to “rehabilitate” and fix those broken water wells.
23 broken wells to be exact. For 23 different communities.
Jobs and People
This partnership creates 46 jobs.
Will this fix everything?
Will it change the entire world?
The answers: No and No.
How about now? No, still won’t change everything but those jobs will impact the world of those 46 people. Those jobs for local folks will create ownership that will impact sustainability. Even more so, those water wells will help provide clean water to about 5750 people. Not a typo. Real people. And while water, in itself, won’t fix everything, it impacts so much.
No “Free” Water
Yes. That’s what I wrote. No “free” water.
Handouts can be debilitating in any context. We’re not speaking about abusing water privileges or preventing access but when we keep assuming that people are so poor…we can easily make false assumptions and in the process, block paths to create healthier systems and for more ownership and sustainability.
When I’ve traveled to the developing world, it’s always amazed me how many people have cellphones. Those cellphones have costs and thus, are seen as particularly valuable.
Water is valuable. Charge a small fee for usage. Very small fee. But those small usage fees add up that go to a fund that helps for repair costs because we know the inevitable will eventually all happen: All wells and water pumps will break at some point.
But they don’t have to remain broken.
Investing in women and girls
This isn’t about favoring women over men but a simple acknowledgement of the gross imbalance of power and opportunities in the world. It would be false and misleading to say that investing in women will dramatically impact the world without first acknowledging the “why” behind such a dramatic statement. In short, investing in women and girls will dramatic impact the local communities and world because in many parts of the world, the gifts and personhoods of girls and women are often overlooked, ignored, and forgotten. Thus…half the sky.
Consider this – research demonstrates that girls who complete seven years of schooling will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than girls who do not complete primary school. Yet even though the economic and social returns of investing in girls are undeniable, World Bank research demonstrates that only two pennies of every dollar in international aid funding goes to support programs for girls.
In Davos last month at the World Economic Forum, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told world leaders that girls are the key to ending global poverty. Investing in girls is now proven to be one of the most cost effective strategies to improve health, education, and economic outcomes for poor countries around the world.
Just like the girl on the train, there are 600 million girls living in poor countries who struggle to eat, attend school, and see a doctor when they need one. These girls could be our own daughters – bright, eager to learn, with dreams and hopes for the future. These girls could become doctors, entrepreneurs, and leaders of their countries. These girls could change the world.
Reality, however, is very different. Most of these girls are forced to work while their brothers attend school, suffer abuse in their families, and experience violence in their communities. They are too often married off as children to men three times their age, and give birth to daughters whose lives will follow the same cycles of exploitation…
The world’s 600 million girls are our greatest return on investment. The time has come for our dollars to follow our research and our rhetoric. As a global community, we can no longer afford to look away. [link]
We must invest in women and girls around the world – as an affirmation of dignity that we can never give but as a reminder of that which has been already given to them by God.
“Diana Keesiga is an example of a young woman who is changing her community and world. Diana is a strong young woman who saw a problem in her community and decided to learn how to fix it.”
I believe in this so much.
Well, the board at ODW extended a $75,360 matching grant in our collaboration with The Adventure Project. Meaning, we believe in this in the amount of $37,680.
Development is messy but if done well, it can make a significant impact in the lives of people and communities. This Saturday is World Water Day…and I invite you to join me and others.