Why I Chose to Bring Awareness to the Role of Girls and the World's Water Shortage
During my first year at University of Pennsylvania the school theme for 2010 was the "Year of the Water" which meant that the university would center activities, education, and funding around global water issues. During that year I got involved in a lot of the activities and became increasingly concerned about the issue and how it affected women and young girls especially. For these reasons, I wanted to incorporate water issues into the plot of Janjay.
The plot of Janjay centers around a little girl living in a lower-income West African country. She comes from a middle-class family of four living in a three-bedroom house. Her father is a successful entrepreneur but recently business has been slow so her mother takes on a part-time job to help support the family. Despite this, eight-year-old Janjay is still tasked with collecting water for her family. When she neglects to collect water on one occasion it is apparent that even at her age, she can't afford to goof around, as children should, because of the important role she plays in her household. Time spent collecting water takes away from activities, schoolwork and so much more. I really wanted to make this a central part of the storyline to show the burden on girls to collect water and second to show the contrast between girls growing up in the developing world versus girls growing up in more developed countries.
I think many people living in the developed world are so far removed from the issue around water supply that they might assume only the very poor, living in destitute, face this problem. This is not always the case as illustrated in Janjay. In the last two years, Americans have come to learn that a city even in the "Great United States of America" can be without water supply. What shocked many Americans wasn't that surprising to me because I attended a high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where students were not allowed to drink from fountains due to high levels of lead found in the drinking water from 1999-2003. Globally 1 in 3 schools lack access to clean and safe water.
This issue of clean water is not unique to one particular population—it is a widespread global issue that resonates with many people around the world.