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My walk to water

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
1. Water, sanitation and health
Author(s): Tara Zolnikov
Tara Zolnikov
James Hopkins Water Institute

Keyword(s): autoethnography, access to water, weight
Article: Poster:


Background: Approximately 780 million people do not have access to safe or affordable drinking water worldwide. Improved access to safe drinking water is defined as water located within 1 km from the household and must contain at least 20 liters daily for each member per household. Unfortunately, there are many populations worldwide that continue to have poor or limited access to water.

Objectives: To date, an autoethnographic viewpoint on poor access to water does not exist; therefore, I sought to experience what poor access to water means for millions of water gatherers worldwide.  This study took place in Narok, Kenya. 

Discussion: The demanding part of gathering water is the weight. The weight of the tribal beads strewn across my head and neck was close to 5 pounds, which was added to the weight of my 5-months-pregnant body.  Next, the weight of the water in a 10 liter jerrycan was added; the jug was supported by straps around my forehead and settled into the hollow of my lower back—another approximately 20 lbs. I glanced at the sun and felt the dry Africa heat penetrating my skin under the heavy native clothing.  My exposed skin had already accumulated small beads of sweat even before I began moving. And then, I walked.  Each step required concentration and effort to disregard the unfamiliar pain that reverberated throughout my body from the unaccustomed weight.

Conclusions: Water gathering transport times and the associated physical exertion need to be moved to the forefront of problems associated with poor access to quality water. Ultimately, because women are subjected to a vast array of problems during water gathering, it is essential to continue implementing water interventions to help relieve individuals from the associated consequences.

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