When 18-year-old Enana escaped her child marriage and returned to her home village in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, she was astonished to see the change that had occurred during the three years she had been away thanks to the construction of a new solar-powered water system by Plan International.
Enana was just 15 when her family decided that she should be married to a man who lived in another community, she did not want to leave her family and school but felt she had no choice but to follow her parent’s wishes. Her marriage was not happy and three years later she decided to return to her home village and moved in with her aunt.
Glad to be back in her village, she was even happier when she saw the transformation that had happened while she had been away. A new water system had been constructed in the village by Plan International, and the changes it brought were life-changing.
“We used to have fetch water far away from here and the water we collected was not clean,” Enana explains. Before the closest water source was an hour and half away and the women and children, who are largely responsible for collecting water in Ethiopia, would often have to wait up to four hours for their turn to access the water supply.
Typically responsible for domestic chores, girls and women often collect water from unsafe sources like rivers, streams and holes in the ground. Collecting water – often for hours every day – can make them late for school or unable to work, putting them at a disadvantage to men and boys. And drinking, cooking and washing with this dirty water exposes them to deadly diarrhoeal diseases every day.
“Sometimes we would set off to go to the pond at 3 am in the morning and might not get back home until 8 or 9 am, just to get one jerry can of water,” Enana says. “Women and girls would be abducted or raped because the way to the pond was through a forest and an abandoned field.”
Since the construction of the solar-powered water supply system, located in the heart of the village thanks to a Safe Water project funded by Plan International Netherland, the community now has access to clean water.
“Things have amazingly improved in our village. Women and children no longer have to travel a long way in search of water. We have clean water very near to our houses,” says the father of four, Asmamaw, 55. “We have said goodbye to waterborne diseases like diarrhoea.”
Everyone, says Asmamaw, even the youngest children in the village are very grateful for the new facility and water committed has been established to manage the water supply system properly, ensuring that it is sustainable.
“You have no idea how our lives have been transformed and we don’t ever want to go back,” Asmamaw says. “We know that Plan International will not be around forever and so we have formed a committee to manage the water facility properly.”
The Safe Water project has so far built three water points in the village, two for general use by the community and one at the local primary school. A water tank has been erected with the capacity to store 25,000 litres of water. Water is pumped via a solar-powered system so that water supply is not interrupted due to the lack of energy.
Over 190 households benefit from the water facility who contribute 10 Birr every month to pay for maintenance costs.
For Enana, easy access to water has made a huge difference, not only in saving her and the other women and girls in the village time which they can now devote to their studies but also to their personal hygiene. “Villagers would only wash their clothes for annual ceremonies and they would wash their body only once a month on average, just because the water was so scarce.”
“Now we can wash our clothes every three or four days and our body every day,” Enana says. “Also, because the water is so clean, the community don’t get skin infections caused by bacteria anymore.”
About the project
The Safe Water project is benefitting just over 357,950 people in communities in Amhara Region and Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) Region. In a bid to reduce morbidity, mortality and malnutrition of children, caused by waterborne diseases. The project aims to give people access to clean water within half a kilometre from their homes.