TED Talk: ‘The Magic Washing Machine’

It’s currently dry season, specifally, hot dry season. That means the rivers and streams flow at their lowest points, wells dry up, and people women have to travel further out to find water. I’m very lucky, as I have a perineal well just meters from my doorstep, and although the natural spring I go to for drinking water no longer babbles, there’s still water available at only a ten minute walk. However, many women in my community spend a significant amount of their working days carrying water. They’re not like me, carrying just enough to drink from the spring, or just enough to bathe once a day from a nearby well. They’re carrying water for themselves and their families, to drink, cook with, and bathe twice a day. They’re also carrying water for their gardens, for the ability to provide essential nutrients for their children, and for economic support in the lean season. Roads and electricity dominate to table of discussion for development in Zambia , but I sometimes stop and wonder if, were more women (specially rural women) at the table, if plumbing and running water would be emphasized more.

This talk explains what I’ve observed in a truly amazing way. It also encapsulates my criticisms of the “population bomb” argument, not because population growth isn’t an important issue, but because of the way it’s often coded to shift  responsibility from us, the global north, the standard setters of materialism as development, using the most resources per capita globally, onto women in Zambia who walk kilometers to find water. How can we justify people in the global south not being afforded modern amenities that, to us in the global north, are essential?

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‘”Abollah?”

“Yes.”

“When I grow up, will I live with you?”

Abdullah watched the orange sun dropping low, nudging the horizon. “If you want. But you won’t want to.”

“Yes I will!”

“You’ll want a house of your own.”

“But we can be neighbors.”

“Maybe.”

“You won’t live far.”

“What if you get sick of me?”

She jabbed his side with her elbow. “I wouldn’t!”

Abdullah grinned to himself. “All right, fine.”

“You’ll be close by.”

“Yes.”

“Until we’re old.”

“Very old.”

“For always.”

“Yes, for always.”

From the front of the wagon, she turned to look at him. “Do you promise, Abollah?”

“For always and always.”‘

Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

 

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“The people of these regions [of sub-Saharan Africa] have been told so often that they are poor and powerless that they do not recognize the abundance surrounding them. Thus they can be persuaded by unscrupulous companies in league with corrupt national and local politicians to sell what they “own” for a fraction of its actual value. Even were they to embrace a new agenda that put the earth at its center, Africans might find that they cannot reach their goals because the resources (or the technologies needed to access those resources) are not available to them. It’s as if someone is being swept along in the current of the river, and you are on the riverbank telling her that if she calmed down and thought for a second, she’d be able to help herself by swimming to the bank and not drowning. But the current is getting stronger, and getting stronger; she is panicking and fighting the current, and as a result only increasing her chances that she will drown.”

Wangari Maathai, Replenishing the Earth