Water Get No Enemy – 8th Annual WASH Gala
If you wan to go wash, na water you go use If you wan cook soup, na water you go use If your child dey grow, na water he go use Nothing without water Water, him no get enemy! The
If you wan to go wash, na water you go use
If you wan cook soup, na water you go use
If your child dey grow, na water he go use
Nothing without water
Water, him no get enemy!
The words of legendary musician Fela Kuti never rang so true as they did during Face Africa’s 8th Annual WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Gala. With New York City’s chic Mezzanine as the backdrop, the annual fundraiser aimed to raise awareness and funds for the growing inaccessibility of clean water on the continent. Held on March 25th, 2017 in the heart of the financial district, the Gala was hosted on the heels of World Water Day and aligned with International Women’s History Month to celebrate the progress of Face Africa’s water programs and recognize the critical role of women in ensuring the longevity of healthy and sustainable communities when given access to clean water.
This year’s theme was “Water Connects Us” — and connect it did, raising over $100,00. Attendees included notable names in the African Diaspora such as rapper Young Paris, Sundial Brands (SheaMoisture) CEO Richieliou Dennis, and Deputy Secretary General of the U.N., Amina Mohammed who came out to support the cause and left with one basic understanding – a dedication to providing clean water is more than just a humanitarian act, but an investment and a belief in our communities and our selves.
Tony-award winning actress/singer, self-proclaimed daughter of Liberia, and host for the evening Saycon Sengbloh opened the event with a rendition of Fela’s Water Get No Enemy. She later expressed that, water (and in-turn this cause), in essence allows her a connection to her culture and the larger diaspora community,
“I relate to water every day. The fact that I m able to just go into my kitchen and turn my faucet and drink fresh water is something I don’t take for granted. There are so many people that aren’t able to do that so water connecting us means I want to connect as many Liberians, Nigerians, Ethiopians, – as many people on the continent of Africa with fresh water as I can.”
Saycon’s sentiments are not unwarranted. Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries in the region with 350 million people living without access to clean, usable water. This is one of the largest contributing factors to the cycles of poverty and preventable disease. In addition, it is estimated that 40 billion hours of productivity a year are lost on the arduous task of collecting clean water, especially in remote rural communities, an issue that disproportionately thwarts the educational opportunities and economic growth of women and girls.
Over its young history, the WASH gala has grown to be a highly anticipated event characterized by its fashion-forward reputation and influential guest list (only to be reaffirmed this year by its sold-out status). But beyond the soiree’s elegance and class, there is tremendous impact and inspiration. To date, the nonprofit has reached 100,000 people in Liberia and played an instrumental role during the Ebola outbreak reaching 50,000 in need.
Young Paris described his personal connection to the issue and why he has been particularly supportive of the organization,
“ [Events like the WASH Gala] raise awareness on subjects that happen on the continent, specifically the subject of water, an element that everyone needs. It’s a very critical topic to talk about and being a Congolese man, we deal with a lot of these issues as well back home. And the organization is great, I know a lot of the people involved and I truly believe in what they do.”
Face Africa also made a big announcement that evening declaring its expansion into Nigeria — a country that boasts the third richest economy in Africa but still has 2/3 of its population living with inadequate sanitation. Sobering facts like these seemed to motivate a renewed sense of commitment for the cause as the donation pledges and silent auction bids were abundant in the room.
But one of the most defining moments of the night came from the call to action by influential owner of Red communications and The Future Project, Adebola Williams. “We should all be angry and channel that anger into action, because the continent is our business…we must all be citizens, we must all become water [for Africa] and nourish the continent so that it flourishes,” he said, touching on the underlying message of the night that encouraged members of the Diaspora to take responsibility and invest back into the continent, much like Founder of Face Africa, Saran Kaba Jones and many others in the audience have already done. “We are all connected by that one agenda – an African agenda—to fix our continent, to make our continent work. Not just by providing physical water, but by turning ourselves into water to do the things that water does in the field.”
Indeed, Fela’s words were invoked in many ways throughout the night as they illuminated that the clean water crisis is an issue that should speak to everyone. It is a basic right that connects everyone, Africans and Friends of Africa alike. It is the foundation of truly everything– health, economics, and collective growth. The 8th annual WASH Gala was not only a reminder of this, but also a testament to the notion that African issues can have African solutions.
Caption for Somi – “We should all be invested in protecting water and providing clean water. Its about remembering that sometimes the most simple things or the thing that we can take for granted sitting here in the developed world, is the thing we need most. When we step outside of our privilege, step outside of the context of the developed world, we are reminded of how much we take for granted.”
Images Captured by Oluwaseye Olusa