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Every woman counts. Every second counts


Authored by Barbara Ryl

Unilever sign in Mexico

About the author

Barbara Ryl

Barbara Ryl

Barbara Ryl is Brand Manager for Unilever’s Sunlight dishwashing soap and helps lead Unilever’s Water Centres project – a partnership with Oxfam which is improving access to safe water for communities in Nigeria.

I couldn’t imagine spending hours every day fetching water. Walking to my nearest supply, queuing to collect as much as I could carry, then taking it home.

A waste of potential

But for millions of women it’s the same story – every single day. In the developing world, the burden of collecting water usually falls to women and girls and it dominates their lives. It’s an incredible waste of their potential.

In rural Africa alone, fetching water takes an estimated 26% of women’s time – equivalent to 40 billion hours every year. It’s time they could be spending in education, earning a living, enjoying their families or contributing to their communities.

So in 2014 we teamed up with Oxfam to help to reclaim time for women in two villages in Nigeria. We introduced Water Centres, facilities to provide thousands of families in semi-urban communities with access to clean, safe water they could use for domestic chores.

Giving women time

I have always been a passionate volunteer so when I was offered the opportunity to manage Sunlight’s Water Centres projects, it was the perfect job for me – combining the NGO work I always dreamed of with the expertise I always saw in Unilever. It looked great on paper, but it took the bold leaders on our team and our partners in Oxfam to make it a reality.

Now we’re starting to see the first results, and hearing about how these centres are thriving and really making a difference to whole communities is a fantastic feeling.

Having a local source of safe water has unlocked time for women nearby, liberating hours of their lives. We’ve seen women starting businesses, having quality time with their kids and participating in village life so much more as a result. It’s given them, and their families, an opportunity to have a better future.

Building a sustainable model

It’s surprising to hear women use words like ‘freedom’, ‘peace’ and ‘health’ when they’re describing how they’ve benefited from the Water Centres, but they do – and they mean it.

Better access to water truly revolutionises their day and hopefully it will also impact their futures. Time is our most valuable commodity. I believe every woman counts, and every second counts. That’s why my goal is to keep these Water Centres going – and to build more to help other communities flourish. There is still lots to take care of, but there are also lots of people with kind hearts and sharp minds that can make this model a truly viable and sustainable one.

We ask you to join us to help the millions of women worldwide who are trapped in the daily cycle of walking and waiting for water. Help us make their voices heard by joining the conversation on Twitter. Share what water means to you with the hashtag #wateris.

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