How time flies! We are already approaching the end of the third quarter of this Rotary year. And yet much remains to be done. This month alone has so many different activities and each requiring our undivided attention. It is the Rotaract month and as a former Rotaractor, I am delighted by the on-going efforts to bridge the gap between Rotaractors and Rotary. I am glad that we all finally recognize that this requires a two-way collaboration and that there is so much to learn from the Rotaractors.
But allow me to focus a little more on the Women and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) themes – both of which we are celebrating this month.
Despite being late entrants into Rotary, women have become a formidable force and as I have said before, I honestly do not know how much we would have achieved without them. But even as we celebrate the remarkable women in Rotary, we must recognise the odds that are stacked against millions of women and girls out there, and the distance we still have to cover to achieve gender equality. Enter WASH.
 
Turning on a tap to wash our hands or take a shower is a no brainer for you and I. Infact it is not something that we give much thought. And yet the reality is very different in many of our communities where the need to use the loo or the desire for a daily bath and clean clothes must be weighed against various considerations. More than 10 million people in Uganda and close to 26 million in Tanzania lack access to safe water and improved
sanitation facilities.
 
The scarcity of water has enslaved women, many of whom walk more than 5 km and spend a minimum of two hours a day collecting water for the family and household needs. Collectively and across the African continent, the time spent by women and girls searching for water exceeds 40 billion hours per year. So much time wasted!! Now think – how much more could be gained around the continent, if women and girls spent that time on more important things like going to school, tilling their gardens or engaging in income generating activities.
 
As Rotarians, we have invested significantly in our six key areas of focus. But no matter how much money is spent on education and health facilities in our communities, none of it will make any difference if water and sanitation conditions in those areas are
not improved. “Water is life” sounds so cliché – but it is true. Providing water closer to homes boosts school attendance by freeing girls from the life of a ‘water carrier’ and enabling them to spend more time in school and live their dreams. Bringing water closer frees up women’s time – enabling them to be economically active and financially independent.
Access to clean and safe water prevents disease and reduces infant mortality.
 
With this perspective, I would like to urge you to prioritize WASH initiatives in your communities.
Because as you see, bringing safe water closer to communities ultimately increases the success rate of all our other areas of focus. Each one of us is capable of doing something - be it giving our time and our resources, harnessing our connections and/or deploying our skills to increase access to safe water. By bringing safe water closer to communities, we will not only improve the lives and dignity of women and girls, we will also move a step closer to gender equality.
 
X Sentamu
District Governor 2019 - 20
Rotary International District 9211