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Petition for clean water

Kizito Makoye in Dar es SalaamFebruary 18, 2016

A 15-year-old Tanzanian girl and her community are calling on Tanzania’s political leaders to keep their promise of providing clean water for their impoverished village.

Image: ONE/Restless Development

Eva Tolage and her classmates at Mlowa School located in Iringa, a region in Tanzania's southern highlands, have big ambitions for their future. But those dreams could become fruitless without access to clean water, electricity and nutritious food.

Last year, students from Eva's school wrote to the Tanzanian government asking for clean water and sanitation at their school. They are yet to receive a response from President Magufuli's government.

Eva also wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama with the same concerns. In her letter to President Obama, Eva wrote, 'I would like to ask what will you and the global leaders do to ensure that every single girl in my village and in Africa has better access to clean water, resources, and education, and to ensure the goals are delivered?' She got a response from Obama as he endorsed her calls for action in a speech made at the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

Obama's reply

"I say to Eva and hundreds of millions like you, we see you. We hear you. I've read your letter and we commit ourselves as nations as one world to the urgent work that must be done," the US leader said.

At that assembly, world leaders agreed on a new set of 17 goals known as the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). Amongst them is access to clean water and sanitation. SDGs have since replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN has described the latter as the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.

A group of young Tanzanian girls carrying water on their heads.
Eva and her classmates lose valuable school time fetching waterImage: ONE/Restless Development

Eva was born in 2000, the same year the United Nations agreed on the MDGs. With those goals, the global community committed itself to reduce extreme poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

Taking action

In one of the first inspiring examples of achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, Eva and her community have launched a campaign to make sure the promises made by their leaders in the form of the Global Goals are kept. "I would like to see safe and sustainable water for my community. I would love to see my village free from preventable diseases. I want to see many positive things happening to me, my family and to all of Malinzanga - if we use our voices together, we will be heard." Eva said during the campaign launch.

The campaign is sponsored by ONE campaign, an advocacy organization of more than 7 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease in Africa.

"Eva and this campaign show how strong girls and women like her are changing their worlds for the better. They are not waiting for others before they begin, they are doing it themselves and we are amplifying their message," Nachilala Nkombo, acting Africa Executive Director of ONE, said.


Another group supporting the initiative is Restless Development, a youth-led international development agency. "Eva and her classmates are proving that young people can and do create change in their communities," Margaret Miliwa, Restless Development Tanzania Country Director, said at the launch. "World leaders have signed up to Global Goals that promise to end poverty, inequality and climate change. We now have the chance in Tanzania to show the world how to turn these promises into reality - but we need the collective power of young people to make it happen," she added.

Tanzanian teenager Eva Kolage inside a classroom.
By petitioning her leaders to provide clean water, Eva has vowed to hold them accontableImage: ONE/Restless Development

The two organisations have jointly supported the launch of a global petition to #StandWithEva in solidarity, helping to spread her message and inspire other young people to turn the promises made in the Global Goals into real action that changes lives.

"It will be girls like Eva across Africa and around the world who will make the Global Goals turn from dreams into bread and butter for their families," Nkombo said. "With citizens everywhere holding their leaders to account, the promises made with the global goals must be delivered."