Ubah Hassan is a model and activist, and the President and Co-founder of Maji Umbrellas. Ubah has also served as a spokesperson for FEED projects and recently became a Sisters on the Planet Ambassador for Oxfam America.
As a model, I promote luxury goods—handbags, shoes, and couture clothing. But as an activist, social entrepreneur, and native of Somalia, I know what real luxury is: access to clean water.
Since the July 2011 declaration of famine in Somalia by the United Nations, I have been thinking a lot about water and food shortages in the Horn of Africa. I recently partnered with Oxfam America and created Maji Umbrellas to raise awareness about the crisis in East Africa and money for the 13 million people affected by the drought and famine. Maji will donate a portion of each umbrella purchase to Oxfam America’s relief work in East Africa, enough to provide a day’s supply of clean water to 20 people.
One in eight people has inadequate access to water supplies. And that lack of clean water claims more lives each year than all forms of violence on the planet combined.
The numbers are shocking. And the reality’s even worse.
I know firsthand what it’s like to go thirsty. I was born in Somalia and, at the age of seven, fled this war-torn country to Kenya with my brother and father. There were many days in Kenya when my family, neighbors, and I went with very little water. Sometimes the water pipe in my town would break or the water would get contaminated. When that happened, we’d travel for hours to the next village to get water. And once we got there, we had to wait for hours while others who arrived before us filled their canteens. Read the rest of this entry »