By Emily Parker (Bishop’s)
How long are your showers? Do you let the water run while you brush your teeth? Simple things some of us are not careful with, while Malawians and ¾ of the world are struggling to have access to clean drinking water everyday (Caplan 2008). If this makes you feel bad, it probably should! In all seriousness though, I chose to write about water as a reminder and a form of awareness for us all, including myself.
Without water we would not only be in trouble, but dead-to put it bluntly. Now that I am in Malawi and the water is so restricted, I realize how much water we use for drinking, bathing, cooking, washing, electricity, construction, you name it! Not only that though, when we use it, we use extremely large quantities. Meanwhile, 80% of Africans do not have access to running water (Caplan 2008).That being said, the villages in Africa that actually do have running water are considered privileged, if not wealthy. While even these villages with running water are dangerously restricted, so it seems unimaginable what other villages are going through.
Moreover, even the process of getting water is a tedious task. I have seen countless women pumping water and then transporting litres of water balancing on their heads and some with babies on their backs all at the same time. Meanwhile, back home we simply turn the tap and Voilà, water for everyone! The strength and time difference it takes to access one of life’s necessities from one place in the world to another is huge!
Showers/baths consist of a bucket of water-boiled over the fire and a small cup for rinsing off. Personally, I enjoy bucket showers and I find it incredible how little water I do need to get clean while at home we/I let the water run the entire time. The difference in water consumption is simply unbelievable. However, does this make us bad people? No! It just means that we must use water more responsibly and the first step is awareness then doing it and finally sticking with it! It is not enough just think about it. We need to make the daily decision with a clear goal in mind of reducing our overall use of water; even small changes can make a huge difference.
Remember, actions speak louder than words. Water is for most parts of the world an extreme luxury because of its rareness and vital-ness whereas at home it has become a “luxury item”. We have sparkling water, pools, hot tubs, Jacuzzi baths, and we all know the list goes on and on… The worst part is bucket showers are in fact, so lovely! I want one in Canada!
All in all, I do understand that the realities back home and in Malawi are completely different; I just wish we could help in any small way possible. I also find myself wondering a lot why we, as Westerners are so privileged. This issue will most likely be addressed soon enough when I go into greater detail about reverse-culture shock upon my return to Canada.
Caplan, G. L. (2008). The betrayal of Africa. Toronto: Groundwood Books.