Mina Guli: The Water Woman

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WATER WOMAN

Mina Guli has completed some amazing physical feats, including running 40 marathons across seven deserts on seven continents in seven weeks. Why? To raise awareness of the global water crises. This is her story…

'...all I could think of was when I last told my mum that I loved her. That’s how convinced I was that I was going to die there.'

What’s my greatest fear? Well, one of the toughest things I’ve ever done was the Marathon de Sables (a 251km race across the Sahara desert). I was poorly prepared and broke myself very early on in the run. It was harrowing to say the least. 

Then there was the time I was climbing boulders in the Richtersveld, watching the rest of my group clamber up like little mountain goats while all I could think of was when I last told my mum that I loved her. That’s how convinced I was that I was going to die there.

But none of those experiences come close to my greatest fear: the human race is sleepwalking into an irreversible situation that will prevent us from solving the water crisis.

'Every year 3,575,000 people die from water-related diseases.'

I ran 40 marathons across seven deserts on seven continents in just seven weeks. Why 40 marathons? To represent the 40% shortfall in the supply of water, which is forecast by 2030. I ran down six of the world’s great rivers, on six continents in just six weeks to raise awareness of the UN’s sixth global development goal: clean water and sanitation for all.

But I fear the running I’m doing to raise awareness of the water crisis and all the other work I’m doing won’t yield the kind of results I want to see. I fear we won’t close the gap on where we want to be and where we are now. 

Right now, the gap is immense.

How immense? Every year 3,575,000 people die from water-related diseases. That’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every hour. Around 2.2 million of those people are children. At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease. Unclean water and poor sanitation have claimed more lives over the past 100 years than war. That’s how immense.

© Kelvin Trautman
'without drastic intervention we will be in the same place in a few years’ time or worse than we are today.'

What I fear most is that without drastic intervention we will be in the same place in a few years’ time or worse than we are today. If that happens, it would mean I have failed the next generation. I can’t let that happen.

When so many go without, it’s shocking to think how much water goes into everything we use, buy and consume everyday. I sat with one of my friends and we worked out the water that had gone into producing the clothing we were wearing that day. It would have taken more water to make than either one of us had drunk in our entire lives.

It left me wondering how I could have grown up in Australia – a country that had a 10-year drought in my lifetime – and not know this. And if I didn’t know it growing up in this drought situation, how would the average person who turns a tap and fills a glass without a thought know?

© Kelvin Trautman

Water is the one thing we can’t live life without, but it’s also the one thing we all take for granted. We are blind to the water crisis. We are blind to our use of water, we don’t value it, and we don’t appreciate it. The time for that is over. 

We don’t have the luxury of living on a planet where there is enough water for us to use and abuse and take for granted. We live on a planet where we must take care of our water resources. We must protect it for future generations. We must use it efficiently. And if we don’t do all of those things, our planet will die.

Voted one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders in the world, Mina Guli is the founder of Thirst; a grassroots education and innovation organisation with over 1.4m student graduates. Check out Mina’s website to learn more and discover how you can play your part.

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