Click to preview Water Walkers photo book

A grand challenge of our era is to bridge technical expertise with a human rights agenda. No longer can we impose structures on the unwitting "for the good of the most." Anyone working in sustainable development today realizes that we must consider how all projects great and small impact each and every individual. As a sociologist, I contribute to this discourse through intense on-the-ground work with the least visible and least heard actors. This particular work is a product of 100 interviews with street vendors, mostly young ladies, who are active participants in moving water around developing cities.

Urbanization of water is a fact of life in developing countries where growing cities require alternative flows of water to meet demand. Yet, so little of the literature has previously considered the role of young vendors in water distribution in developing countries.

Through digital storytelling, this book presents the daily experience of water vendors as they negotiate their way through spatial dimensions of traffic and market, home and school. Although my portraits are often of individuals, collectively, they represent the broader community of a new generation of young adults growing up on the rapidly urbanizing streets in the developing world. The implication of this work is to contribute to the current discourse in sustainable development by adding the social context to this primarily technical project of water distribution to urban populations.

A portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to Pure Home Water to ensure the continuation of clean water distribution in Ghana.


About the Author

Melissa Haeffner
melissa58 New Orleans, LA
Melissa Haeffner is a sociologist finishing a degree in Urban Studies and Planning, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to add to a Masters in Sociology from DePaul University. Her interests include merging the two disciplines to protect human rights of persons displaced by environmental change. She has studied communities in Ghana, the former Soviet Union, Europe, Central America and North America. Previously, she has taught at DePaul, worked as a policy analyst and has organizing experience with several non-profits. Ms. Haeffner is currently writing her next book on the role of NGOs in disaster relief.

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