During a recent conversation with Reckson Matengarufu, one of our Project Officers working on water and sanitation projects in the Gwanda District, I was amazed with the way the community has been transformed by this project, with women now taking an active role in water and sanitation issues.
Zimbabwe’s rural populations are largely conservative. Men take a leading role in most activities. But, this is changing in the project’s target wards, where, in the past, women were only responsible for fetching water and taking care of household chores. It was taboo for them to be seen getting involved on issues to do with borehole repairs and maintenance as it was considered a men’s job. Now, that migration from rural to urban areas has increased in Zimbabwe, and particularly in Gwanda where men seek greener pastures in neighbouring South Africa, women have been left to fend for themselves.
In a very dry environment like Gwanda, water is scarce, broken water points mean that women and girls bear the brunt of walking long distances to fetch water for daily domestic use.
Faced with these challenges, do women really have to wait for their husbands to come back home during the holidays and service the boreholes? NO!, women in Gwanda have been empowered and are now able to carry out borehole maintenance tasks and repairs efficiently. Men and women can now work together for the benefit of their communities.
Mrs. Mary Mufiri (52), one of the women who has taken a new role as a pump minder is a mother of four. Her husband has been working in South Africa since 1998.
She told me, “I am very proud of this role that I now have within the village. Before this, some of our water points had not been working for very long periods. This meant that we has to walk up to 5 kilometres to fetch water or use unprotected sources.”
This work is a result of Practical Action Southern Africa’s three year project ”Enhancing Community Participation in Governance of Water and Sanitation Service Delivery in Rural Gwanda District” which began in August 2011, funded by the European Commission. The project seeks to contribute towards democratising the management and governance of communal water and sanitation infrastructure in Zimbabwe, demonstrating inclusive and replicable approaches for the delivery of basic water and sanitation services. You can find out more about Practical Action’s water and sanitation programme here.