Umu Bouare isn’t the only hairstylist in her village, but she has to be the most likable. Sitting on the quiet, well-shaded porch of her home, she welcomes customers in with an infectious smile; it’s no surprise that she has multiple appointments each day.
For women in this community, coming to see Umu isn’t just about having their hair styled for an event or a feast — they also come to relax.
“I do their hair and we talk together,” Umu explains, laughing.
“Because of the water taps, we have time to earn money and do other things — even take a rest. We didn’t think this day would ever come.”
That’s the part of her job she loves: the social aspect.
Sure, it provides income that she can use to buy clothes, food and shoes for her family, but the real highlight is the chance to connect with other women in the community, to make them feel beautiful.
Umu appreciates the opportunity even more because it hasn’t always been this way.
Just a few years ago, she and the other women in her village used to wake up at 5:00 am each day and stand in line to collect water from an 800-year-old open well outside their community.
They would waste hours just waiting for the well to refill after running dry from over-use. And the water was making their families ill.
But all of that changed in 2013, when their village received solar-powered pumps, a water tower and taps that bring clean water to families right outside their homes.
“We used to spend all day getting water from the open well. Sometimes we didn’t even get water. But now it’s easy. We wake up early and do work quickly; we have time to do other jobs and earn money. It has changed our life.”
Today, Umu’s entire community takes clean water and sanitation very seriously. And she encourages it with her own behavior.
Not only does Umu educate her customers — women and girls — on how to properly wash their hands and hair, she also volunteers to maintain the tap stand near her home.
Umu sees clean water as a luxury. It’s made her family healthier than ever, and it’s brought her the joy and extra income from running a successful business. She doesn’t take water for granted.
2014 September Campaign
This year’s September Campaign is about bringing health, time and opportunity to women in the Sahel region.
Our goal is to bring clean water to 100,000 people in Mali and Niger. And you can help.
Change a woman’s life by fundraising with us. You can start your campaign at charitywater.org/september.
“My wish is that whether it is Sourountouna or a neighboring village or all the villages in Mali or the world, that they all get clean water. My wish is that all people find peace and live easily without water difficulties.”