THE BLOG

Safe Water Access and Why It Matters

01/24/2014 03:31 pm 15:31:35 | Updated Mar 26, 2014

If you asked me what inspired me to become an activist, I don't think I could tell you. I honestly can't recall a time when I haven't been extraordinarily passionate about one issue or another. I have been very involved in my community since I was young and that's really shaped me into who I am today. Over the years, I have devoted myself to different issues. My areas of interests have evolved as I have grown up. For the past few years, I have found myself more and more dedicated to issues that serve as building blocks for societies. Gender equality, education and job availability all play a big role in developing a community.

In the past few months, I have had the extreme privilege of working with other International Youth Council chapter chairs on the issue of safe water access. We worked together to develop an online resource kit for young people looking to learn more about this issue. The chapter chairs shared their personal experiences and the more I learned, the more I realized how something I had always seen as so simple -- clean water -- was so important to building a healthy, sustainable future.

For one, every year more than 3.4 million people die from water related illnesses. Of those, 84 percent of water-related deaths are children. In fact, more people die from water-related diseases than all forms of violence -- including war. Growing up in a place where I've never had to worry about how dirty my water is, it's so hard to imagine how many people die simply because they don't have clean water to drink.

When you look at those numbers, it's easy to see the impact that providing a safe water resource could have on a community, on a country, on the world. But what's really astonishing is how far safe water access really goes in terms of developing communities. Earlier I mentioned that education, gender equality and job availability all play an important role in society. It's amazing to see the impact that providing safe water access has on all three of these issues.

Because getting water is often seen as woman's job, women and young girls often have to walk for hours to fetch clean water. If we eliminate the need to travel several miles in order to get water, this time could be spent attending school or have a job. Not only does this help bridge the gender gap that is still ever so present in many parts of the world today, it helps to build economies. Women who start their own businesses or hold jobs of their own are able to provide a living for their family without having to worry about what's in their water.

With limited water resources, sometimes the water closest to these families is contaminated and dirty. This leads to children, as well as teachers, often being too sick to attend school. Whenever a teacher misses school, often the entire class misses those lessons due to limited resources and not enough teachers. When given healthier options, the education systems of these communities are ultimately benefitted. A rise in attendance from both students and teachers helps strengthen the schools and provides students a better opportunity to focus on their studies.

The affects that safe water access has on gender equality and the education systems also benefits the economy as a whole. Managing water systems and the need for employees in areas like pump repairs and facility management creates jobs that typically wouldn't be available in those areas. When we empower young girls, they are more likely to start their own businesses and develop their own careers, which play a huge part in building economies. Because education is now easier to access, kids and young adults can now be trained to have these jobs without having to worry about them or their teachers falling sick due to contaminated water.

When you look at the numbers and read about the diseases caused by dirty water, it's easy to see how bringing clean water access to communities helps to build a society. When you look past the numbers to see how it benefits every aspect of society, water becomes so much more than water. It becomes opportunities for women, it becomes an education and it becomes a gateway to a career. When looking at how communities are built and developed, safe water access has to be considered. This is an issue that matters to people all around the world. Regardless of age or race or religion. Sometimes what separates someone from something as simple as clean water is nothing more than the inconvenience of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. For a lot of the people who will read this, clean water is something that is easily obtained.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case for everyone. And it's our job to make sure that someday everyone can drink clean water without having to worry about where it's coming from. Everyone can do something, even if that something is as simple as educating someone else on the benefits of clean water.