A new well brings healthy water to a village and changes lives for the women residents
Susie Goodall is the water, sanitation, and hygiene program manager for Samaritan’s Purse in Niger.
A couple of generations ago, one man moved to a new area in south-central Niger, built a mud-brick house, and lived in the fields he cultivated each rainy season. There was only one problem—his wife refused to come with him. Traditionally in Niger, it’s considered women’s work to collect water. Between walking, waiting, and carrying, the task can take several hours each day. The new location had no nearby water source, so his wife decided to stay where she was. The village has been named “Taki Zoua” ever since, meaning “she refused to come.”
By the time Samaritan’s Purse field staff visited the village in 2012, the population had grown to more than 400 people, but the lack of clean water hadn’t changed. The issue had become one that affected many of the young men in the village. Young women from the local area were refusing to marry them and move to the village because of the lack of water.
Of course, the more well-known effects of a lack of water were also evident in the village. Women and children spent hours every day fetching water from a well several miles away or, during the rainy season, from open ponds closer to home. When water is scarce, less is used for hygiene, and children suffer from skin and eye infections, as well as intestinal parasites and diarrhea. Women have less time to earn money and to care for their families.
In 2013, after working with the community to set up a management committee, carrying out geophysical surveys, and deciding on the site, Samaritan’s Purse was able to engage a contractor to drill a well for the village of Taki Zoua. As the water, sanitation, and hygiene program manager, I remember being among the first team members to visit the village and offering up a silent prayer to God that He would hear their cry and provide water for them.
On another visit to the village a few months later, we explained that we had not forgotten about the village and were searching for options. Our first attempt with a different contractor in a nearby village had been unsuccessful. At that point, I had no idea how we would find the funding for the well. The military escort that accompanied us was stuck in mud and, as we waited for the vehicle to be freed, I wandered around the village silently offering up a prayer that God would make a way.
It was a great joy to visit Taki Zoua in February 2014 and see crystal clear water coming out of the ground and to hear the satisfaction of the women that now don’t have to walk far from home to collect water. Aisha, a mother of four children and resident of the village, explained that before the well was built, she used to spend the night at a well to wait in line. Now she can sleep in her bed at home and come every morning to the well. She can just stop by the well whenever needed, which leaves her time free to do housework.
“It’s good!” said the president of the water point committee. “You have promised, and you have done it.”