By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona
I begin with thirst, dry, parched thirst, and the search for clean drinking water in an arid land. Mostly because Ramadan in Arizona in 106-109 degree heat lends to a desperate empathy with all the people who do not have access to water, globally. Being without water and food from sunrise to sunset in this long hot summer month takes its toll. By afternoon it becomes hard to concentrate and one becomes excessively lethargic. This month causes a strong compassionate association to people who do not have access to food and water. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, where clean, cold, clear water and abundant food awaits most fasting people here in Arizona.
The Water Princess by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds is based on the childhood experiences of Georgie Badiel, a high fashion model from Burkina Faso. The short text is well-written by Verde and expressively illustrated by Reynolds. The lack of green and the abundance of warm yellows browns in the illustrations lend to the message of the story. The main character, Gie Gie, is represented as a happy young girl who considers herself a princess who commands the heavens and the earth. But Alas! She cannot command water to come to her. She does try though, “‘Water, come! Do not make me wake before even the sun is out of bed!’ I demand.” The reality of Gie Gie’s life is on the contrary, as she lives in a village with no tangible luxurious amenities, sleeps on the floor, and has to carry heavy vessels and walk for miles to get to the well for water before daybreak everyday with the hot sun beating down day in and day out. She is dragged out of her sleep even before she can pry open her eyes. They walk and then wait their turn to fill their vessels from a pond of mud colored gook/water, “pots filling with the dusty-earth-colored liquid.”
Her life is hard, to say the least, but she seems to draw strength from her mother and keeps her positive outlook going. Even after they return home she has to wait for her mother to boil and cool the water before anyone can quench their thirst, “The thirst comes quick—dry lips, dry throat” and then, “drink Maman says, finally. Every sip fills me with energy. I want to make it last, but I can’t. I gulp it down.” She knows that she has to make the grueling journey again the next day. The text ends with pertinent questions that Gie Gie asks her Maman at the end of the day, “Why is the water so far? Why is the water not clean?” And finally, “Where is our water?” (emphasis added). These are questions that everyone in developed countries needs to ask and then try to find answers. She is not an idealized princess, but she is and forever will be the princess to her hardworking parents.
Lack of water and an access to clean drinking water is an issue that faces most of the developing nations of this planet. We, who live in luxury, should not distance ourselves from the issues that the majority of the world faces. The obligation of making this planet habitable for all is everyone’s responsibility as global citizens. With organizations like Ryan’s Well and Georgie Badiel Foundation we see actual examples of individuals trying to do just that, so that people like Gie Gie would have her dream become a reality “someday.”
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