Gambian Mum Walks Paris Marathon With 20kg Of Water On Head

150429 gambia-water-marathon

A WOMAN from Gambia, who had never left her village before, took part in the Paris Marathon over the weekend to raise awareness and help African women get clean water.

In the middle of 54,000 runners at Sunday’s (Apr 12) Paris Marathon, Siabatou Sanneh definitely stood out.

Carrying a 20kg water container on her head and wearing her race number 64173 on top of a multi-coloured traditional African dress, Siabatou wanted to make a statement.

It was the first time the mother-of-four had ever left her country, Gambia, but this didn’t deter her from wanting to raise awareness about the difficulties African women face in accessing clean drinking water, on the behalf of Water for Africa – a non-profit organisation which builds boreholes in her village.

“I came to Paris to do the marathon to raise awareness and help the African women get clean water for their domestic use – for drinking, cooking, washing and gardening to grow agriculture,” the 43-year-old said.

“In my country, you grow what you eat and you eat what you grow, but you can only do that with sufficient water.”

By walking the marathon with a plastic barrel of water on her head, Siabatou was hoping to send a message to the leaders at the 7th World Water Forum – which runs until Friday (Apr 17) in Daegu-Gyeongbuk, South Korea.

Her statement is simple: she does not want to be drinking water from wells any more.

“I want them to help us dig bore holes, a sustainable water source, but not only more holes, I want more sustainable ones too. That’s all we need. I don’t want my children to be collecting water from dirty wells when they are older,” she said.

In Gambia, Water For Africa estimates between 200 and 300 water pumps would be necessary to supply the population and overcome the 40 per cent to 60 per cent of wells or pumping systems that are crumbling, reported International Business Times UK.

Sanneh, who lives in the small village of Bullenghat, which has a population of 300, first started collecting water when she was just five-years-old.

“I wake up in the morning, and go and collect water from a well. I have to walk 8km there, and back. I do this three times a day at least.”

There are no roads in Bullenghat, and Sanneh goes to the well accompanied by her daughters, Nyima, 12, and Mamina, 20. All three carry the equivalent of 20kg of water in containers, plastic bottles, and buckets, wearing only flip flops.

“It is a difficult journey,” the mother explained, “in my village, temperatures often reach over 40C, and it is very warm.”

A hand-dug open well can take many weeks to dig, whereas a bore hole can be drilled within 48 hours – depending on the depth.

While she did not walk the whole 42km “because it was too long and the container on my head was too heavy”, Sanneh said she is proud to have accomplished the walk, carrying a placard that read: “In Africa, women walk this distance every day to collect water. Help us shorten the distance”.

“I expect this will enable people to donate so we can have clean water in African villages. I don’t want my children and their children to be collecting water from the well when they are my age,” added Sanneh.



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