In Kenya, drought is threatening livelihoods, health and rights—particularly of women and girls. The Alternative Rites of Passage – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (ARP/WASH) programme addresses the intrinsic link between the value of water and women and girls’ rights.
Today is World Water Day and its ‘Valuing Water’ theme resonates deeply with our work on the Alternative Rites of Passage programme we have been running in Kajiado County since 2009. Over 14 years, the programme has made significant progress towards the goal of improving Sexual Reproductive Health services and Rights (SRHR) among adolescent girls and women of reproductive age in Kajiado County, with the value of water central to our programme design.
But, in recent months, we’ve seen first-hand the impact of water scarcity on communities in the region. Kajiado County has been hit hard by drought, which threatens the livelihoods, food security, health, and rights of communities. Crops are failing, livestock are dying and so families who depend on the land or livestock for income are struggling. We have seen parents sneaking into schools for free lunches, because they cannot afford to feed their families.
The lack of water means that women and girls are spending long hours each day fetching water, at increasingly further distances, making it difficult for them to attend school or work to bring in money to the household. The shortage of water also increases the risk of diseases and infections, particularly for women and girls who lack access to safe and hygienic sanitation facilities.
The ARP/WASH programme aims to increase access to sustainable safe drinking water and improve sanitation while working with communities to adopt the Alternative Rite of Passage and end their practice of FGM/C.
Amref works closely with the Ministry of Water, the Kajiado County government, and the local community, and together we have now completed the construction of 150 cubic meter reservoirs to store water pumped from the boreholes that were rehabilitated in Olmotiany and Enkusero communities. This has enabled us distribute water directly to communities and schools, providing safe, sustainable water sources for women, girls and their communities.
Water and rights
Spending less time and effort to access water means that women and girls are able to attend school, engage in income-generating activities, and improve their health and well-being. They’re also able to engage with the programme to end harmful cultural practices such as FGM/C and early marriage.
This dual approach of WASH – building sustainable safe water supplies, improving infection prevention and control – and ARP – reducing cases of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), early marriage, and teenage pregnancy – creates a powerful tool to increase acceptance and support for the community-led ARP model by cultural and political leaders. The programme is generating evidence, sharing lessons learnt, and best practices for ending FGM/C, early marriage, and teenage pregnancy through this approach.
As we celebrate World Water Day 2023, let us remember the importance of valuing water and ensuring access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene for all.
Through our ARPWASH project, Amref Health Africa is committed to empowering women and girls in Kajiado County, improving their SRHR, and contributing to the overall health and well-being of the community.
By Denge Lugayo, Programme Manager, Amref Health Africa Kenya
[images: Woman collects water, Kenya (c) Kevin Gitonga; WASH in Kenya (c) Kevin Gitonga; WASH & Climate Change in Kenya (c) Kevin Gitonga; Water Reservoir in Kajiado (c) James Murray for Amref Health Africa; WASH in Kajiado (c) James Murray for Amref Health Africa].