Improved Access to Water
Can Save Time and Change Lives
We consider water a basic life necessity but it has been predicted that by 2025 this may not be a reality for 4 billion people around the world, who will struggle to have access to clean water. That’s virtually half of the world’s population! What is more, completing simple household chores shouldn’t require a long journey to the river, or waiting inside all day for the water supply to be switched on, but this is the reality for millions of families.
For around 2.8 billion women and girls worldwide, getting access to clean water is a daily struggle that requires hours of their time that could otherwise be spent with their families. It’s been estimated that each day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is being taken up, collecting water for domestic use. On average, women in Africa and Asia walk 6 km each day to collect water.
Have you ever gone that far for a drink, to bath or wash up?
In South Africa, the current drought has resulted in the declaration of a national crisis, every drop of water counts. The country is currently experiencing the worst drought in almost 30 years. The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWAS) indicates that the international average water usage per person is 173 litres per day however the country sits close to about 62% above the global average. Alarmingly, recent reports show that 37% of all clean drinkable water is lost through leaking pipes, dripping taps and aging infrastructure.
Unilever partnered with Rhodes University to create the Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality (UCEWQ) which has now been in place for 15 years. The aim of the programme is to understand the dynamic water situation in South Africa from scarcity to quality. Sunlight has thus partnered with the UCEWQ to conduct research and gain insight into the gravity of how the water shortage has impacted its consumer.
Sunlight has ranked the water scarcity peril high on its agenda. As a brand offering products that are essentially water dependent, it understands the impact a lack of water poses on its consumers’ day to day life.
Caroline Blumrick, Brand Manager Sunlight says, “We recognise the importance of taking the lead in water saving initiatives, as it is paramount to making a difference in communities and to our consumers. Water is an integral component when using Sunlight and the water shortage consequently directly impacts our consumers and their laundry habits.”
In March 2016, Sunlight have announced the installation of 250 push taps in Tembisa, a community located on Johannesburg’s East Rand. Tembisa is a low earning income community that is fast growing and saving water is one of the key issues that they are facing. “The community complains about the high water bills caused by leaking taps and the Sunlight push taps is great initiative to help alleviate unnecessary water wastage,” says Avhafunani Matamela, Ekurhuleni Department of Water Engineer of Tembisa.
Along with installing the push taps, Sunlight also initiated a door-to-door campaign within Tembisa, communicating and educating the residents on the importance of saving water. Through this campaign, Sunlight continues to highlight water as a precious and limited resource, and helps to drive the message of protecting this resource. Residents were also educated about how they could use the push taps efficiently in order to save water on a daily basis.
“Our aim is to encourage our local communities to learn to use water sparingly and in more sustainable ways. Without water, there is no life. Therefore we all need to save water today so that it will be available to us in the future and installing the push taps is a step towards ensuring that that water is not wasted.” says Caroline Blumrick, Sunlight Brand Manager.
For World Water Day in 2015 together with WaterAid, Oxfam, NextDrop and UNESCO, Sunlight launched the Water for Women report. The report looks at the impact that poor water access has on women and girls and the real solutions that are already making a difference. Two of these solutions are key components in Sunlight’s mission to bring clean water to more families. Sunlight’s mission is to work with communities and organisations in India and Nigeria to find new ways of solving this important challenge.
Local women are also trained to run the water centres, which in return teach them valuable skills, give them specialised experience and an opportunity to generate an income. From the centre’s water is sold to locals at a low cost, as well as food and everyday household goods. All proceeds are used to maintain and manage the centres to ensure they last for years to come, benefitting generation after generation. Local communities are also offered guidance on responsible water use and how to best maximise their water they have.
In 2015, with the help of Technoserve, Sunlight were able to expand from two water centres to eight, making it possible for us to reach and unlock time for more women than ever before! Now, for women like, Mnguswn, collecting water doesn’t mean a 4km round trip, hours of queuing and stress. Rather, she has more time to invest in herself and her community, and she believes more water centres could make a real difference to other families.
“Wherever there is poverty, women suffer more than men,” she admitted, “because we are the ones looking after the house and the children. So if other women have access to a water centre like this they will have enough time for themselves and their families.”
Since opening, the Sunlight water centres have already benefitted over 12,000 women, giving them the opportunity to reclaim hours of lost time.
Here are Sunlight’s top tips for hand-dishwashing:
- Use 'grey water'* to water garden or mop your floors.
- Use short blasts to wash your dishes instead of running water.
- Make sure your washing machine is full before putting on a load.
- Check to make sure all taps are closed and not leaking.
*Grey water is previously used/relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines etc.