The Samburu are indigenous peoples located in Kenya and East Africa. The Samburu tribe is historically nomadic, traveling throughout the region to provide for its members. With close relations to the Maasai tribe, the Samburu tribe shares a similar language, both derived from the mother language Maa. The Samburu Project aims to provide clean water access to the Samburu people.
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights”
Kristen Kosinski founded The Samburu Project after a trip to Kenya in 2005. While meeting with female leaders in the region, Kosinski met Mariama Lekwale, known as “Mama Mussa,” a remarkable women’s rights activist and member of the Samburu tribe. Mama Mussa introduced Kosinski to many Samburu women, all of whom brought up the issue of water during shared conversations. Kosinski learned that water was the focal point of many of these women’s lives. It was the women’s responsibility to procure drinking water for the family, an extremely complicated task.
Safe drinking water was severely lacking in the region, with few available wells. The existing hand-dug wells faced contamination from waste products. Waterborne disease was rampant, causing illness and death across the region. As it is the women’s job to search for water, parents often pull daughters out of school to help with this arduous task, depriving young girls of their education. According to Water.org, globally, women and children “spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water.” This time could go toward more productive activities such as education and paid employment.
Impact in Numbers
Seeing how a lack of access to water disproportionately affects girls and women, Kosinski was inspired to work together with Mama Mussa to drill four new wells in the region before the year 2007. In 2007, Mama Mussa, unfortunately, passed away, however, her son Lucas Lekwale took over this incredible mission. Together, Lekwale and Kosinski committed to drilling an additional 75 wells in the region before the close of 2015. Since its start in 2005, The Samburu Project has built 126 wells in the region, providing more than 100,000 Kenyans with clean and safe drinking water. Over time, The Samburu Project gained many well-known partners such as Whole Foods, OPI, Chobani, Wells Fargo Advisors, Rotary International, Lyft and Forever 21, to name just a few.
The Far-reaching Impacts of Access to Water
According to the United Nations, water forms “the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself.” Furthermore, water is essential for eliminating diseases and “improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.” As such, The Samburu Project’s mission is an important one.
The Samburu Project’s mission is “to provide access to clean water and continue to support well communities with initiatives that promote health, education, women’s empowerment and general well-being.” Safe water has also played a significant part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the area. Reducing contamination and increasing access to hygiene practices like handwashing through “tippy tap” handwashing stations has dramatically reduced potential instances of infection and transmission in the region.
Eliminating the search for water gives women time to earn an income, lifting many out of poverty. It also gives young Kenyan girls time to focus on their education, with more than double the number of girls enrolled in school as a result of acquiring access to clean water. With accessible clean drinking water, health, hygiene and wellness improve and young girls can attend school instead of shouldering the burden of collecting water with their mothers. Furthermore, women can focus their energy on activities that empower them to rise out of poverty.
The Samburu Project has done incredible work in Kenya, ensuring that the fundamental right to water is upheld for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.
– Michelle M. Schwab