Students bring water, but not for the plants

By Lindsay Carroll

Pitt students took a piece of Tanzania to Schenley Park. Students and community members… Pitt students took a piece of Tanzania to Schenley Park. Students and community members carried water buckets from the Cathedral of Learning to Schenley Park Sunday to raise money to bring clean water to people living in poor countries. During the second annual Water Walk for Women’s Rights, about 300 walkers imitated women and children in Tanzania and other African countries. Many women and girls travel up to four hours per day carrying heavy water buckets in rough terrain to get clean water for their families. Often, they forgo educational opportunities and risk rape or murder while traveling through areas of conflict. Eric Hartman, the executive director of Amizade, one of the event’s sponsoring nonprofit organizations, said 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to clean water. This means that 3,900 children die per day because of water-borne illnesses, he said. ‘That’s a lot of people. It’s hard to get your head around it,’ said Hartman. ‘Every single one of those people is a sister or brother, maybe a teacher or a student. They have their own aspirations.’ Walkers represented organizations such as the AmeriCorps service project Public Allies, Pitt’s Campus Women’s Organization and Student Conservation Alliance, as well as members of the community. They trekked a distance between one and two miles, from behind the Cathedral of Learning across Schenley Plaza and into Schenley Park, climbing hills and steps while carrying about 20 pounds of water. After the event, people wrote responses on laptops set up in a tent and listened to musicians Brad Yoder and Joy and Peace Ike. Amizade sponsors service-learning programs around the world in countries like Tanzania. It co-sponsored the event with Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, a campus anti-genocide group, said Amizade’s Cheryl Mrazik, who helped coordinate the event. Some of the money raised at the Water Walk will fund Amizade’s efforts to build gutter systems in homes that collect fresh rain water and drain it into tanks for the families to use. Hartman said the systems cost less than $300 to install. Last year, the walk raised enough money to build them in three Tanzanian homes and a large one at a community center. Another portion of the money will support STAND’s efforts by funding European Union forces in refugee camps that can help protect women and children when they leave the camp to fetch clean water. At press time, the groups were unsure how much money they raised, according to STAND representative Amanda Cohen. As the walkers passed the lake in Schenley Park, Public Allies volunteer Jesse Charles provided encouragement and supervised. He said that people think of clean water as an issue separate from women’s rights, but that the situation is actually about women’s empowerment. ‘When you have to travel for three hours every day, how do you have the energy to study?’ asked Charles. ‘How do go to school?’ Elsa Khwaja, a Pakistani student at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs who studies violence against women, said that participating in the walk felt empowering. Khwaja said the issue was especially important to her as a student of international gender issues, because, while men in those countries tend to concentrate on private issues such as receiving an education or working, the women care most about fulfilling the family’s needs. She said that in countries all over the world, the lack of clean water can cause violence. ‘Water wars will happen for years to come,’ she said. ‘You don’t think about it when you have a water bottle in your hand.’