What happens when women lead?

Fetching water in Kenya

Women and children in developing countries often have limited opportunities because they must spend their days fetching water to survive.

Women in developing countries often aren’t thought of as leaders. Food for the Hungry (FH) helps communities reverse that thinking. An example of a woman becoming  a leader is Yubo Boru, a 35-year-old mother of four children living in Kenya.

Rather than going to school when she was a girl, Yubo would carry as much water as she could from a nearby water source to her home. For most of the year, the nearest water source would be dried up, so she had to walk nine miles across the border into Ethiopia to get water. It was a dangerous and arduous three-hour walk – each way. With five gallons of water (40 pounds) on her back for the return trip. For a child, it was difficult labor.

As an adult, she continued carrying water and used it for drinking, cooking, sanitation and gardening. Sadly, the water contained waterborne diseases. Yubo had no choice but to give it to her children—it was all there was.

Building a rainwater catchment system in Kenya

The entire community pitched in to build a rainwater catchment system in Yubo's community.

Since Yubo’s husband could only find work 472 miles away, he was unable to help her with their family garden. So, after her six- hour walk to get five gallons of water, Yubo then did her best to tend the garden so her children would have enough to eat. They rarely did.

The children were hungry. Their mother was exhausted. Their father was absent. They were often sick.

Then FH entered Yubo’s community, and things changed dramatically. FH worked with community members, including Yubo, to identify the key challenges they faced. Water topped the list.Yubo and others worked with FH to build a system for catching and storing rainwater. Yubo started an irrigation project, turning her floundering garden into a thriving farm where she now raises enough potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, kale and various fruits to both feed her family and sell the surplus.

Her business was doing so well that her husband was able to quit his job and work in their community to expand the irrigation project.

Yubo's Garden in Kenya

Yubo led the way to bring water to her garden, transforming her family and community.

Yubo is what FH calls a mother leader in her community. She was instrumental in bringing water to the community and in starting the irrigation project. Both have transformed her family’s lives.

Additionally, Yubo trains other mothers about health and hygiene. Those mothers take the messages to other mothers. Through this method of social networking, Yubo’s efforts have transformed not only her own family, but also the lives of more than 2,000 community members.

Now, because of all the changes, Yubo’s children attend school rather than spend their days carrying water.

So the answer to the question posed in the headline of this blog post—what happens when women lead—is that children and communities are transformed and thrive.

Watch a short video on the challenges that lack of water causes in the lives of many people in developing countries.