Key Note Speaker: Women and Water – Steve Arthur

Steve Arthur

Engineering the future, a basic human right, access to clean water and sanitation.

Steve Arthur has been fascinated with water all of his life since stumbling into a sewer as a kid.

Assisting with Water Aid has been a natural progression to profession.

Steve Arthur identified the stark effects that water access and clean sanitation has on gender equality. Women and girls are impacted most by bad water distribution.

Suggesting that women and girls should not be seen as victims rather use this as an opportunity to see them as they really are ~ as engineers ~ innovating bringing safe water and sanitation to their world.

In the 2nd decade of the 20th century when we have the technology to thoroughly explore space, we as a humanity, ought to be ashamed that people live without access to clean water and sanitation. Water Aid is focusing attention on those innovative ways to get water and sanitation to all.

Coming from Grimsby…and studying civil engineering and water, Steve has warned us that the challenges we have in water distribution and access has been impacted by a number of things, none so important as austerity measures, diverse work forces, and no creative engineering in the accessing of water.

However there’s an initiative, Business 4Life ~ which is training young people in water aid and raising lots of money ~  a quarter of a million pounds.

Steve drew pictures of four territories in dire need of water.

Burkina Faso is landlocked and has no natural waterways ~ they are seriously impacted by the lack of water.  Volunteers go to the village… listening to the elders who explain how they access water .. Young boys go down to the dam, (la barrage) and push sludge out from the sides, then lay on their stomachs and suck the water out of the sludge to spit into their buckets.

In Ethiopia, Business4Life is training the civil service ~ understanding that when working in villages, they need to go to the women…since they are the engineers.

Arthur brought the conversation back to Our mission statement, noting every word points to us being engineers of our present and future spaces!

Access to water was recognised by The UN as a basic human right only after social responsibility became trendy and Prince Charles got involved. with Business4Life, when a water industry chief founded it in 1981.

Raising funds in creative ways: such as running marathons.

They are marked by a few values:

  • Inclusive
  • Inspiring
  • Courageous
  • Always learning

Rajiras toilet in Bangladesh is a dump for all to use.

On earth today:

  • 650 million people are without safe drinking water.
  • 2.3 billion People are living without a toilet
  • 315000 are under 5 years old.
  • Globally, 900 kids are dying everyday…because they lack access to clean water and sanitation.

Steve then did a live collage of an Arc of a girls life…

Born into village in Tanzania, this little girl comes into the world in a hospital, with a midwife with dirty hands, a bucket on the floor with dirty water. Babies are dying from diahreaa  and fecal based diseases everyday. Water Aid has come to the hospital – creatuve engineers have safely gotten water from the ground.  Midwife Juliana saw this changing world…

Bringing water and sanitation…taps with running water…meant that the same toddler in Burkina Faso had an 80% survival rate ~ her mother is.a.water monitor…She.is trained in measuring rainfall. she records everything that goes on with the water lump in the middle of the village.

She.has turned into an engineer, thanks to Business4Life ~ she has become a role model for her daughter.

The little girl now is older. She doesn’t need to be dragged awake in the.morning. she is thirsty for her education. before the water pump, she’d often be turned away from school despite walking miles …because of dirty uniforms, but now she gets there safely and clean.

Engineers from Water Aid dug the first hole bringing water into the.village via a pump.

She.is now a teenager …her name is Rgaynda.

She used to go to school with 1300 other boys and girls.

There were 5 pit toilets to serve them, with the nearest dirty water, miles away. the girls stayed home when they had their periods.

A health club was brought to the school as well as a water tank. The difference this made!

Boys were taught to understand the monthly cycle of the period and so ceased the ridiculing of the girls.

The girls were taught to make their own soap and sanitary pads. The impact this made!

Teaching boys what it’s like to be a.girl.

The young woman now is grown and in Delhi. She has had access to 2 latrines outside in daylight but at night they have to go in the dark.

They’d alter what they take in to their bodies so they’d not have to go in the dark.

Water aid brought in toilets for homes .. this is the future we are engineering.

Engineering people’s lives!

Rachale has 4 children and is pregnant again. The.nurses are now clean in the same hospital…everything now is clear and clean.

In Uganda an entrepreneur borrowed 500 shillings. She buys fish and dries them, she doesn’t have to walk for miles to get dirty water.

She started the local water council. She has set up rules around how to use.the.village pump. She has set up her family in life, educating her kids, reinvesting in the business after paying back initial loan…from her dried fish business.

The women are the hope, the inspiration and innovation of the community. They are the principles of community led total sanitation.

Water Aid is teaching engineers new behaviours via communication and action.

Sarina Prabasi, the Chief executive of Water Aid America and Barbara Frost, the Chief Executive of Water Aid are forces of nature and are doing a phenomenal job!

They lobbied for the U.N. to recognise  access to water as a human right and sustainable development goal.

They have created and taught the role, benefit and value of partnerships and peoplecentric development.

Water Aid is promoting People making change on the ground. Their goal is to be out of a job by 2030 with an ambitious aim of universal access to clean water and sanitation by then.

Check out Water aid.org.

Michelle Cave


About Steve Arthur

Steve Arthur has worked in the water industry for over 25 years.  He studied Civil Engineering at Oxford Brookes University before moving into the water and environmental engineering sector.

He rapidly found opportunities to use his skills in partnership with a desire to assist the NGO sector by volunteering for WaterAid. He has led WaterAid supporter trips to West Africa including Burkina Faso and has delivered training on water and sanitation issues to senior civil servants in several assignments to Ethiopia.

He currently works in Bath for Wessex Water as a programme manager delivering change initiatives into this rapidly changing sector.

He is a regular public speaker on the challenges brought about by the lack of clean water and proper sanitation.  He has often focused on gender equality and development topics related to the provision of vital hymenia. He has strong family links with the Soroptimist organisation in the UK. He lives in Berkshire with his wife and 3 young children, all of whom are strong supporters of Wateraid and regular fundraisers