Fatoumata's story 
Mali

My passion for WaterAid’s work comes from personal experience; I grew up in a village near Tombouctou that had no access to safe water or sanitation. Because I am the eldest of seven, many of the responsibilities of the household fell to me, including looking after the children and collecting water for the whole family.

Water and sanitation scarcity were real problems in my village. When I went to collect the water I would have to get up at 4am, and when I got back my baby siblings would be crying because they were so thirsty. In the dry season it was common for our community to pack up and go on the road to find water. People were forced to go to neighbouring Burkina Faso and even as far as Ghana, and many, especially children, would die during the dry season because of the acute lack of water.

I was lucky that a teacher at the local school noticed I had promise, and pushed my parents to allow me to go to school; from this I was fortunate enough to gain a scholarship to study abroad. I always planned to go back to Mali to start helping my country towards universal access to water and sanitation, and in 2006 I began working for WaterAid as their Country Representative.

WaterAid has reached 100,000 community members each year for the last five years, so we are making progress, but we have an awfully long way to go in the area of sanitation as nearly eight million Malians still do not have anywhere safe or hygienic to go to the toilet.

My working day begins at 5.30am when I get up to bathe and do my morning prayers. I help my son Didi get ready for school, and we have breakfast together before I drive to WaterAid’s office for 6.45am. When I get to the office, I check and prioritise my emails, and review the day’s plans.

I usually take my lunch with the staff. It’s a good opportunity to chat to them, and it creates a good team spirit. I like having vegetables with chicken and sometimes I add rice with local sauce. To facilitate my digestion and good return to work, I drink tea.

After lunch I have meetings to review progress within the sector and the challenges we face. Before going home around 6pm, I check my emails to help me plan for tomorrow, and I consult with staff on the day’s achievements.

When I get home, I bathe and do my night prayers before dealing with dinner, which I have with my son while following both national and international news. I make sure my son has done his homework, before putting him to bed and catching up on some reading. I go to bed around 10.30pm, asking God for the best for the next day.