#WorldWaterDay: This African woman is leaving her legacy on water

It’s World Water Day and Saran Kaba Jones is taking over CNN Africa’s Instagram page and stories. Following the announcement by the media house, the Liberian national also took to social media to talk about the World Water Day.

Hello Africa!!! It’s @sarankjones, I am pretty excited to be doing this.

Right now, nearly 850 million people lack access to safe water in their homes. Over 300 million of them are in Africa. Today, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water; 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.

And this is why I started @face.africa

Jones, 35, is the founder and CEO of Face Africa, a non-profit organization working to provide clean water to communities in Liberia and in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa where unsafe drinking water is one of the major causes of infant mortality.

Since 2009, she has made it her mission to specifically focuse on access to safe drinking water and sanitation. She continues to do so by using her voice to bring awareness to an issue that disproportionately affects women and girls.

Saran Kaba Jones

In the wake of a devastating civil war which lasted well over a decade, Saran fled her country at the age of 8 with her family spending her formative years living in Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, France and Cyprus before moving to the United States in 1999, as the daughter of a career diplomat. Returning home in 2008 nearly 20 years later, she came face to face with the harsh economic realities of a post-conflict Liberia.

“The long and devastating civil war had left Liberia’s infrastructure in ruins–roads, buildings, health clinics, schools, farms and factories were almost totally destroyed,” she said in an interview with Forbes. “There was no electricity, no running water or sewage system, and an inadequate education system.” Liberia was broken.

In order to address the problems of contaminated water, she founded Face Africa to provide access to clean and safe drinking water for rural communities in Liberia, using an innovative social enterprise model to fund water projects. Today, Face Africa provides clean drinking water to tens of thousands of Liberians.

February 15 2015, Rivercess, Liberia:
FACE Africa receives health and hygiene supplies from a UN helicopter in Neezuin Town, Rivercess, Liberia. Courtesy: Face Africa

“The path that led me to FACE Africa started really when I was a young child. I have always had a strong concern and compassion for others, and have always striven to help whenever possible. From a very young age, I was exposed to a world of diplomacy, travel and community service (my father was a public servant and career diplomat). Born in Liberia, my experiences traveling the world, as well as my time spent living in four different countries (Ivory Coast, Egypt, France and Cyprus), made me certain I wanted to do something internationally that would help people, and specifically my native Liberia–I just never knew what. One thing I did believe was that the most effective way to bring about positive change in Africa and end the cycle of poverty was to invest in the education of its young children.”

The company raises funds through online donations on its website, small corporate and foundation grants and annual fundraising events throughout the year with the main fundraising event being the Annual Gala held every March to commemorate #WorldWaterDay, with this year’s edition currently ongoing and CNN Africa amplifying and celebrating Jones’ achievements.

The Safe School Initiative. Courtesy: Face AFrica

Saran is a Board Member of the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group West/Center Africa and a 2013 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She was listed by the Guardian UK as one of Africa’s 25 Top Women Achievers alongside President Joyce Banda of Malawi and Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee.

In 2012, she received the Longines/Town&Country “Women Who Make A Difference’ Award for her work with FACE Africa, and earlier that year she was listed by Black Enterprise as one of 10 International Women of Power to Watch and by Daily Muse as one of 12 Women to Watch. In 2011, Saran received the Applause Africa “Person of the Year” award and was the Voss Foundation’s Women Helping Women Honoree. She was also a Huffington Post “Greatest Person of the Day,” and listed as one of Forbes Magazine’s 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa.

Jones is a frequent speaker on topics including water infrastructure, entrepreneurship and gender equality and has served on panels at the World Economic Forum, Harvard University, MIT, the London School of Economics, and the African Union. Her work with FACE Africa has been profiled extensively by Forbes, the Boston Globe, BBC Focus on Africa, Town&Country, and CNN.

Jones says she is inspired by a community of smart, ambitious, socially conscious young men and women who believe they have the power to change the world and make it a better one.