One woman stood out from the crowd at Sunday’s (April 12) Paris marathon. Gambian woman Siabatou Sanneh wore sandals and carried a jerrycan of water on her head along the 42 km route.

Perhaps it is not something you would expect to see on the streets of Paris, but women carrying buckets of water is a common sight in Sanneh’s home country, where women often walk the equivalent of a marathon to find clean drinking water for their families.

Sanneh wanted people to realise how scarce water is in Gambia and raise awareness about Water For Africa, an organisation that builds boreholes, a sustainable water source.

After installing water wells, Water for Africa gives some of the world’s most deprived communities the knowledge, power and finance to keep their wells in good working order.

Siampatou Sanech explained how she leaves her village three times a day in search of water, accompanied by her two daughters, aged 10 and 4. All are loaded with heavy cans to transport the precious liquid, which is necessary “to drink, to cook, to wash,” he explained.

“From the day I was born I watched my parents doing this, now I do it and teach my children. But sometimes, especially during the rainy season, the water is not good and the kids get sick, suffer diarrhea because of the water, “she recounted.

Sanech, who wore sandals to walk the 42,195 meters to the marathon finish line, wore a placard with the message: “In Africa women cover this distance every day to find water. Help us to reduce this distance. “