Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Water the source of life – and not of violence - reflection by Priscille Djomhoue

Women carrying water, Nile, Egypt. Photo: Walwyn/Flickr

Over on Seven Weeks for Water Professor Priscille Djomhoue reflects on the resonances between women's lives in the Bible and present day Africa. She also tells stories of women and girls suffering terrible violence and vulnerability because of lack of access to decent water and sanitation. Yet she asserts clearly "Water is the source of life, not of violence".

Here are two tasters from her meditation:

in many developing countries, not everyone has access to drinking water. In towns and in rural areas water is worth its weight in gold. People often have to travel long distances to find a supply of water in a river or a spring, and then carry it on their heads or their backs, exposing them to the risks of malformation of the spine or other back troubles. In many town areas, as is often the case in Cameroon, water has to be bought from a neighbour who has been able to have a well dug or who has mains water. That is not a new situation, since in the Bible, water was often such a scarce commodity that mention is made of people paying for it (Num. 20:17-19; Lam. 5:4).

In Africa, many women are denied their rights and do not have the money to buy water from their neighbours. This situation makes them vulnerable when an urgent need for water arises. In September 2009 in Yaoundé, in an area called Mendong, two young girls under the age of 12 were regularly sexually abused by the man in charge of the well where they often had to go to fetch water for their mothers. The police took up the matter, but it was too late. The physical and psychological damage done to them was immense.