Memorable Hawa, a passionate leader and mother from Frat

5 November 2020
Hawa in Frat, Ethiopia.
WaterAid/ Joey Lawrence

This winter, our Future on Tap appeal explores how unpredictable weather and no access to clean water makes life challenging for families in Ethiopia. Our Voices from the Field Officer, Frehiwot Gebrewold (pictured below), shares her experience meeting the people of Frat, Ethiopia, including one special woman in particular.

Frehiwot standing with her camera
WaterAid/Genaye Eshetu
Frehiwot is part of our Voices from the Field team - seven communications officers based in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nepal, Madagascar, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia.

This year, we've all experienced fear and uncertainty. No one knows what’s next. But no matter what life throws at us, we all need to rely on one thing – clean water. My name is Frehiwot, and my job is to meet communities and share their experience through photography, film and storytelling. Most importantly, I witness when people’s lives change because of the work we do.

Travelling north

You’ll probably never visit Frat, but imagine my journey. We flew from Addis Ababa into Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara Region, before driving three hours to Finote Selam, the nearest town. An hour more along a bumpy road, and we reached the three villages of Frat.

I have travelled to this region many times, but I have never been to such a hot and dry place like Frat. You’ll meet many people who have lived here their whole lives, and you’ll meet many who over the years found refuge here from the trauma of famine or ethnic conflict and were welcomed with open arms. You’ll find Christians living next door to Muslims. You’ll find a school that’s a primary school in the morning and a secondary school in the afternoon. And you’ll find a mix of different water sources – each as problematic and dangerous as the next. You’ll also experience a climate that’s becoming increasingly unpredictable. You’ll hear about daily struggles and challenges, but you’ll also hear – over and over again – about togetherness.

Frat—a place between two seasons

In the dry season (December-June) the main water source is either the polluted River Lah or a large dirty pond. In the rainy season, the river becomes too dirty and difficult to access. The community try to collect as much water as they can from rooftops, but seasonal rain has become less predictable.

Meeting Hawa

Though everyone in the community has their own unique story, there was one woman whose story touched me the most: Hawa.

Hawa and her daughter Ansha standing in the River Lah in Frat
WaterAid/Joey Lawrence
Hawa stands with her daughter Ansha in the River Lah which serves as one of the water sources for the communities of Frat.

As a single mother of three, Hawa has much to contend with. Add to that her daily 45-minute walk to collect water, and my admiration for her just grew. She is the chair for the women’s association in her village and is committed to serving her community, taking their questions to local authorities. She is such a strong and passionate woman. Most of all, her being outspoken and expressive impressed me because it’s not common to find such women in Ethiopia, especially in the rural areas. She treated us like she had known us forever.

Disconnected from the world

Since I visited Frat it has, of course, been a challenging year in so many ways. The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ethiopia in March. It was very shocking for me. I know that many people in the country do not have access to clean water to wash their hands frequently, even though this is the advice.

To make things worse, in June, there was civil unrest in Oromia Region. And that’s when we lost our internet connection. At this time, I felt disconnected from the rest of the world, my colleagues and my work. If things had been OK, it should have been time to travel back to Frat and catch up with the community and Hawa. Luckily, our team in Finote Selam was able to progress our plans.

My hope for the future in Frat

The Future on Tap project work will include drilling for water and constructing a reservoir, using solar power to pump water from the well to the reservoir. A gravity flow system will pipe clean water to public water points.

I hope this project will bring a huge change for Frat. I hope they will have access to clean water near their houses and use the time they spend fetching water for other purposes like income generating activities. I hope the children focus only on their education instead of worrying about not having water and toilets. I hope this project will support the community to look forward to a better future which they really deserve. 

This winter, we’ll be asking our supporters to make sure that whatever our changing climate brings, the people of Frat can rely on one thing – clean water, ​today and every day. I can’t wait to see this day.

Until 4 February 2021, the UK government will match all public donations to Future on Tap, up to £2 million, making double the difference in communities across Ethiopia.