One in four people on the African continent face realities of water scarcity, and in sub-Saharan Africa specifically, the numbers become even more staggering. Over 400 million people in this region of Africa alone lack access to basic drinking water. To put that into perspective, there are 332 million people living in the United States, which means that more than the entire US population lives daily without water that is not fetched from dirty lakes, rivers, streams and other sources in this area of the world alone.
Even more devastating is the fact that women bear 62 percent of the responsibility of collecting water in sub-Saharan Africa and, simultaneously, that same water is responsible for the deaths of 500 children every single day. At Water4, we believe that God’s vision for the world did not include the vicious cycle of mothers walking miles and miles a day, multiple times, to fetch dirty water that would claim the lives of their children – and then have no other option than to return to the same unclean water source.
Throughout scripture, we have been given several stories of women at the well. Not only does this show us that, historically, women have borne the responsibility of fetching water, but it also reveals a far more beautiful story of divine revelation at wells. Water is life-giving and symbolizes creation and new beginnings. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that God would choose water sources as the substratum for multiple moments of revelation. In Genesis, Rebekah is revealed as God’s chosen mate for Abraham’s son, Isaac, as she fetched water at a well (Genesis 24: 1-67). In John, the redemptive story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well provides us with the hope of the Living water which leads to eternal life (John 4: 1-26). The provision of water, and the role that women play in it, has been a constant reminder of God’s promises and the hope that we have in Him.
As Water4 works towards a world without a water crisis, we know that the heroes of that story will not be us – they will be women just like the ones we read about in scripture. And we are honored to play a small role in their success.
By taking a market-based approach to the water crisis, Water4 doesn’t just provide safe, clean water – we aspire to provide much more than that. We encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of women in the communities in which we work and empower them to fundamentally change their lives through dignified employment, a sustainable livelihood and a brighter, healthier future.
A World Bank evaluation of 122 water projects found that the effectiveness of a project was six to seven times higher where women were involved than where they were not. To date, our work in sub-Saharan Africa has resulted in 511 part- and full-time jobs for both men and women and our NUMA Franchise Model specifically honors female empowerment at a higher level.
NUMA alone employs 272 kiosk vendors, with 72 percent being women. These are the same women who would previously put themselves at personal risk daily to fetch water that would most assuredly make themselves and their families sick. But now, through Water4 and the NUMA Franchise, they sell safe, clean water to their communities from the safety of a professional walk-up kiosk where they can earn dignified wages. Water4 provides continuous education and technical training to NUMA vendors, but we also walk alongside them in faith and discipleship. We earn the right to have a presence in their communities through our work and our commitment to sustainable access to safe water in perpetuity, and in so doing, we are able to meet these women at the well.
Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” Our good news to share with you today is that your continued support in the work of Water4 directly impacts the lives of hundreds of women who can claim the long, dusty, dangerous walk to fetch dirty water as a relic of the past. We believe that God’s promise to Jacob in Isaiah 44 still echoes throughout the world today. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessings on your descendants.” God’s promises freely offer abundance for His people, not just a few drops but full, flowing abundance. We invite you to join us as we continue pushing toward a world where everyone knows the abundance of safe and Living water.