Written by Corrie Butler
 
Achol tends to her garden outside the Red Cross constructed water point 

Photo: Achol tends to her garden outside the Red Cross constructed water point

 Amid swirling dust clouds and gnarly thorn bushes in the dry, arid landscape of northern South Sudan, a water point is enveloped with women’s laughter. A group of women catch up during their morning errand to collect nearby water.
 
It hasn’t always been like this in Pacyic village. Before the water point was rehabilitated by the Red Cross, women and girls would trek more than two hours by foot to the river side three times a day, often risking their safety and security for a few litres of water.
 
“In South Sudan, women and girls carry the brunt of the chores, including spending hours collecting water for their families,” says Ngot Joseph, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer with the South Sudan Red Cross in Kuajok.
 
“It is often when accessing water that women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence.”
 
Achol Ajiek, 25 years-old and mother of five, had recognized the challenge of security in her own community.
 
“We would go to the river three times a day – once in the morning, again in the afternoon and then fetch water in the evening,” recalls Achol.
 
“It was not safe for us to fetch water. Some young women fell victim to rape along the way to the river side. It happened, in fact, just some time back.”
 

Bringing clean water closer to home

With the generous support of the Canadian Government, South Sudan Red Cross, in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross constructed and rehabilitated more than 70 boreholes in Gogrial West, South Bringing clean water closer to homeSudan to improve access to clean water, not just for women and girls but for all members of the community.
 
What used to take two hours, now only takes minutes for many of the community members in the village.
 
“We used to fall sick frequently when we were collecting water from the river because the water was not clean,” says Achol.
 
“Now, we can fetch water that is near us.”
 
To ensure the water points are properly managed and maintained in each community, the Red Cross has set up water management committees made up of five women and two men.
 
“Not only will these committees guarantee the sustainability of the water points, but also encourage meaningful participation from women in these rural areas,” says Stefano Lounes, Health & Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Delegate with the Canadian Red Cross in South Sudan. “These committees empower women to take control of the most precious resource that influences every aspect of their lives.” 


Empowering women through safe water access

With the generous support of the Canadian Government, the South Sudan Red Cross has helped an estimated 35,000 people access clean water in Gogrial West.After the South Sudan Red Cross began to construct boreholes in villages like Pacyic, something very unexpected happened. Women were coming together to build vegetable gardens around water points, in an effort to feed their families and generate extra income for their community.
 
Achol is a water management committee member and helps maintain the village’s thriving garden, made up of vegetables and other greens.
 
“We sell products from the garden to make money to pay school fees for the children, medication and buy other family items, like kitchen supplies,” explains Achol proudly.
 
“We thank you for bringing water closer to our families. Now, we can water our gardens without any difficulty. Our life has become better.”
                                                                             
With the generous support of the Canadian Government, the South Sudan Red Cross has helped an estimated 35,000 people access clean water in Gogrial West. The water, sanitation and hygiene intervention is part of a five-year Canadian-funded project that aims to improve the health outcomes of mothers and children in northern South Sudan.
 
Corrie Butler is a Canadian Red Cross communications aid worker that was recently sent to South Sudan thanks to financial support of the Government of Canada.