|The First Lady of Zambia Maureen Mwanawasa.|
NEW YORK, 7 February 2005 - The First Lady of Zambia, Maureen Mwanawasa, has founded a non-governmental organization in order to help improve conditions for children and women in her home country.
The Maureen Mwanawasa Community Initiative works closely with UNICEF, and focuses its humanitarian efforts on four areas: healthcare, social welfare, water and sanitation and education, especially girls’ education.
Zambia is one of the countries in UNICEF’s campaign to intensify efforts in 25 countries to maximize the number of girls in school by 2005 – ’25 by 2005’. Globally, girls represent the majority of children out of school and face some of the biggest challenges in getting an education.
In a recent interview with UNICEF, First Lady Mwanawasa said that access to clean to water will help get girls into school. She said that her country has plenty of fresh water, but lacks the infrastructure required to get this water to communities that need it.
Often, girls and women are in charge of collecting water for their villages and homes – sometimes walking extremely long distances to do so. The Maureen Mwanawasa Community Initiative helps to provide funds for communities allowing them to dig much-needed fresh-water wells.
“Traditionally, girls are looked on as people who should do the domestic chores so they will have to join their mothers to walk one or two kilometres or more to fetch water. During that time the girls are too tired to really come back home and concentrate on education,” said First Lady Mwanawasa.
“The girl child must be able to be given the same opportunities like the boy, which means the issue of clean water becomes very, very important. The water should be close to the communities and the water must be clean and accessible,” she added.
First Lady Mwanawasa praised UNICEF’s work in her country, especially in the education and water and sanitation sectors. She appealed to the world community to be aware of the vital connection between education and clean water.
“We are calling upon the corporate world, the donor communities, the well-wishers, and everybody to see the importance of water cannot be over-emphasized. It’s very much related to education. It’s very much related to the advancement of women,” said First Lady Mwanawasa.