By Mark Dreger
Despite the snow and cold, men and women came out to participate in Kelowna’s annual Walk In Her Shoes event in Mission Creek Park to celebrate International Women’s Day on Sunday.
“What we’re doing here today is we’re walking 10,000 steps and it’s to walk in solidarity with women and girls around the world—mostly in developing countries—that have to walk 10,000 steps—or 6 to 7 kilometres—a day just to get the basics, so firewood, water, and food,” said Wendy Wright, the Volunteer Event Chair for Walk In Her Shoes. “Walk In Her Shoes is doing events not just here in Kelowna, but (Sunday) they were also in Vancouver and Calgary, and later on in the week they’re in Edmonton.”
Participants also had the opportunity to wear weighted baskets on their heads to get a taste of what it feels like to carry water during the long walk.
“One of the things that we want to do is promote awareness,” Wright said. “It’s not just about fundraising—I mean obviously we want to be raising funds to help these women and girls—but it’s not just about that. It’s raising awareness of what continues to occur in our global community, and if we can help and raise one woman out of poverty it’s said that she takes four other people with her.”
Renye Lebel and Paul Maarschalk, who both took a trip to a mud hut village in Zimbabwe, got a firsthand look at the troubles families go through carrying water long distances to and from their homes.
“[Young women] were sitting beside this table, this plastic table with all these huge buckets, like five gallon drum buckets,” Lebel recollected, “and I asked the woman, ‘what are all those buckets for?’ and she said ‘well that’s where we get our water. That’s what us women do: We put it on our heads and go to the well and bring back the water.’ So I say, ‘you got to haul all these heavy, big jugs? How far is it?’ And 6 kilometres they had to walk. And that’s just to get your water. They were obviously very clean and conscientious and I just thought, ‘wow, that’s going to take a lot of water.’ So it’s just stuck with me.”
According to the United Nations, Zimbabwe ranks 154th in the world on the Human Development Index with Canada ranked 10th.
“I asked her why they didn’t have running water,” Maarschalk said, “because there is a pipe that runs not very far from them that they would be able to connect up to, but I think it was going to cost them something like $12,000 to get connected up to the water. That’s a lot of money there.”
Walk In Her Shoes is sponsored by Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) that operates in 94 countries on six continents fighting global poverty to improve basic health and education, and increase access to clean water to name a few. Funds raised from Walk In Her Shoes will be directed to support CARE’s efforts to improve the nutrition of women and children in Southern Africa.
“Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if everyone in this world had access to clean running water that they didn’t have to spend half their day getting?” Lebel said. “To me it’s just a basic entitlement that we all need to survive. You’d like to see these families be able to live an easier life, right?”
According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita was $590US in 2008, but rose to $908US in 2016.
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