Opinion

Time has been vital for my success – I can't imagine losing three hours a day walking for water

'Time is precious,' writes actor Ariyon Bakare. 'How different would my life have been if I had to spend three hours a day collecting water?'

Ariyon Bakare speaking at WaterAid Christmas carol concert in St Pauls Credit WaterAid/ Oliver Dixon

Time is precious. We can’t rewind, renew, or undo it. Still, we can use our time to daydream and turn our dreams into a positive reality.

Everything has its time and place. Without that luxury of time to plan and save, my father would have never made a move from Nigeria to the UK to fulfil his dream to study here – a move unbeknown to him then that enabled me to follow my passion for acting, cultivating the foundation for my future.

My success is undeniably down to having the time to mature and develop my skills. It took me 25 years of dedication and continual pursuit to establish myself. Having the clock on my side was imperative to the exciting acting projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on, such as Life (2017), His Dark Materials (2019) and Carnival Row (2023).

How different would my life have been if I had to spend three hours a day collecting water? That’s the time millions of women and children worldwide spend walking for this basic human right. Globally, a staggering 200 million hours are lost by women and girls collecting water every day – time that could be spent in education or earning a living.  

In Nigeria, 44.5 million people – that’s 1 in 5 – don’t have access to clean water close to home, and climate change is making it worse. Nigeria is one of the countries that is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, experiencing both intense flooding that contaminates water sources and longer dry seasons that deplete springs and wells, forcing people to walk even further for water. 

Karimatu, 17, from Kwaja Village, makes at least three trips a day to collect water that isn’t clean from a stream before school and again in the evenings. In the dry season, the stream dries up, and they must dig for water. Karimatu aspires to become a doctor, but fetching water affects her schoolwork. How many potential doctors, scientists, and visionaries are missing out because of a lack of this basic human right?

Clean water can free people from this vicious cycle. For 24-year-old Rita, from Bauchi State, having a water station installed in her community with help from WaterAid means she can pour her newfound extra time into training to become a tailor, a livelihood that will enable her to build a future of her design.

Time is a universal treasure and many of us feel time poor. According to new research by WaterAid, one in five (20%) working adults in the UK say they do not have a good work/life balance, and an overwhelming four in five people (84%) think having three extra hours a day would make a difference to their lives. Half of Brits (50%) say they would spend that time with family and friends whilst one in five (18%) would learn a new skill.

If I had three extra hours every day, I’d research the healing properties of foods, herbs and spices, especially those known for combating cancer and reducing inflammation, because I just lost one of my closest friends to cancer.

When we initially received the news, I was searching for alternative ways to help him and discovered how food can be a source of healing. I’ve always been a food enthusiast so unlocking the health benefits of foods and tapping into them as a source of healing would be invaluable.

With this newfound knowledge, I would create dishes that taste amazing and pack a punch in antioxidants and immune-boosting goodness. I’d start a cool food blog where I’d spill the beans on all the ingredients, their health benefits, cooking tips, and, of course, taste tests. 

Those extra hours would be priceless in pursuing this new passion. And for millions of people around the world, this time could be the difference between creating a life governed by choice not circumstance. 

Clean water should not be a luxury. As a teenager, I faced homelessness and struggled without access to essentials; I had to fight to survive. That experience shaped who I am today. It’s why I refuse to turn a blind eye to this reality of living without life’s basics.

There is a well-known Yoruba proverb, “Omi o l’ota o”, which translates to “Water, It Has No Enemy.” It has the same title as the Afro-Jazz star Fela Kuti’s song. It’s a song I’ve spent hours listening to, but the meaning has never been as relevant to me as it is today because water is life, and life depends on water.

As the world faces increased uncertainty with the changing climate, a reliable supply of clean water helps communities stay healthy and build resilience to extreme weather. With clean water, women aren’t forced to pick between their survival and their futures – it gives the gift of time, creating a world where they can live up to their full potential.

Ariyon Bakare is an actor best known for roles in His Dark Materials and Carnival Row.

By supporting WaterAid, the public can help get clean water to communities and change the lives of women and girls around the world, so they have more time to learn, earn and thrive. With weather-proof taps and toilets, communities can build a better future. Donate at www.wateraid.org.

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