#StandWithEva: A Young Legendary Woman Campaigns for Clean Water

In communities without ready access to clean water, families make difficult sacrifices. It is not uncommon for young people, often girls, to miss school in order to gather water. The UN Water Brief on Tanzania reports from a study of sub-Saharan Africa, representing 48 percent of the population in 25 countries, that women spent a combined total of about 16 million hours each day gathering drinking water, with men at 6 million hours, and children at 4 million hours. Along with the diseases and health concerns that lack of access to clean water brings to communities, this aspect of the situation puts up barriers for young people with hopes for successful academic futures.

Eva is a 15 year old at the Mlowa School in Malinzanga, Tanzania who is at the forefront of an international campaign to bring clean water to her community. Eva is described by her parents as grateful, inquisitive, and great. Her favorite subject is Biology. She misses class when she walks hours to get water twice a day. The Water Project shares that girls who take these solitary trips in Tanzania and elsewhere are at risk for being attacked or raped. In the inspiring video below, she introduces herself in this way:

“I am a young girl from an underprivileged area, but my voice is as important as anyone’s.”

In 2014, Eva and her classmates wrote to the Tanzanian government asking for clean water and safe toilets at school. They are still waiting for a response. However, the good news is that President Barak Obama did recognize a letter Eva sent him. He read the letter at the 2015 UN General Assembly, when 193 nations gathered to establish these Global Goals for 2030: “end poverty, combat climate change and fight injustice and inequality.” Her letter also addresses how child marriage and the lack of adequate food and electricity affect her and other students in her community. Her letter states,

“My dream is to be an educated girl because there is nothing we can enjoy without education. I want to see every single girl in the world being educated so we can all achieve our big dreams.”

The Global Goals site shares access to multiple campaigns supporting women and girls around the world, because “girls progress=global progress.”

In February 2016 Eva, her classmates, ONE, and Restless Development began a campaign to gather signatures on a petition calling for the world leaders who set the Global Goals to keep their promises, called #StandWithEva. Restless Development is a youth-led development agency promoting Youth Power whose “mission is to place young people at the forefront of change and development.” You can read a detailed report from Restless Development here about how to support young people in pursuing accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals. ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization, “of more than 7 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease.” Acting Africa Executive Director for ONE, Nachilala Nkombo, said this of Eva’s campaign and of the power of women and girls to change the world:

“they are not waiting for others before they begin, they are doing it themselves and we are amplifying their message.”

As of May 2016, Eva’s petition has gained over 149,000 signatures including those of the UN Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, and the Malinzanga District Commissioner and Ward Councillor. The campaign hopes to get the signatures of more local leaders, the MP, and the President. You can view and sign Eva’s petition here. At age 15, Eva is already a legendary young woman, who affirms the power of her own voice and asks for others to hear her. She, her classmates, and the adults and organizations supporting her campaign are courageous in the face of great challenges and I find them very inspiring.

Julia Travers is a writer and artist. Her writing portfolio is here and she runs the artist interview site Ask Artists.

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Legendary Women, Inc. doesn’t own or profit from the images above and has credited them and quotes. They are used here for information purposes and are covered under fair use.

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