Today is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.
To celebrate this, we are going to post a series of blog posts highlighting why women are so central to how we do our work, and then some profiles of the phenomenal women we have working for Dig Deep in Kenya.
So, first things first.
Why are women and girls so important to our work?
Women and girls in Kenya are the primary users, collectors and managers of water in their household, and maintaining a hygienic home environment.
Women and girls tend to take on the responsibility for collecting water for their family. Where the nearest water source is some distance away, the time that it takes to collect the water for their family can take up a large proportion of their day. This is particularly an issue in rural Kenya where we focus our work. These girls and women then miss out on opportunities for education and leisure.
Women also pay the highest price when there is a lack of safe water, beyond the health repercussions of inadequate sanitation.
For girls, the lack of safe, separate and private toilets and hand washing facilities in schools can be a huge barrier to school attendance, a situation made worse when the girls are menstruating. Women and girls also tend to be the ones responsible for caring for sick children in the household, again depriving them of the opportunity for education.
Dig Deep's women centered work
As women are disproportionately impacted by poor water and sanitation access, it is vital that they are central in our approach to change that. Right from the very beginning, women have been driving our work. We began our first project with the advice and guidance of Agnes Pareyio, the first ever female Maasai councillor. Since then we have ensured that women are pivotal in our work.
Addressing the needs of women in our programmes
We build latrines and handwashing stations in schools and communities, with separate areas for girls and boys. This has freed up the time of girls who were previously having to spend time travelling to the nearest water point. The separate areas mean that it is easier for girls to attend school while they are menstruating.
We also run Menstrual Hygiene Management programmes in schools, helping teenage girls ensure adequate hygiene management when they are on their periods. This programme has resulted in more girls enrolling in school, and improved their attendance and retention once they have enrolled.
Women as agents for change
In addition to addressing the needs of women, women and girls are also central to our community engagement and long term water management. We work closely with communities to ensure that the infrastructure we are putting in is appropriate for the specific community we are working with, and also that they have the structures and skills in place to ensure that maintenance and management of the water and sanitation facilities in the long term. We set up water management groups, which have enabled women to take up leadership roles in their communities, acting as key decision makers. Indeed, the committees that are led by women have proved to be very successful.
We also have a series of remarkable women who work in our Kenya office, leading the development of our programmes. We will be profiling these women in our next blog posts.