High heeled shoes – their role in development

November 9th, 2009

I’ve discovered a major problem with micro-hydro sites – they are nearly all on very steep hills. As I am a big woman with bad ankles this is not a good combination. It got even worse today when it rained and the site involved near vertical, slippy slopes of red mud. I thought of my old stiletto shoes with their built in crampons and sighed over my worn smooth trainers. Fortunately Farai was a gentleman and helped me down – it would have been just too embarrassing for all if I’d slid down on my bum by accident or on purpose (a gentle sitting slide has on occasion been my transit of choice when faced with steep hills in the UK – while walking in the countryside you understand, not shopping on a sloping high street). Thank You Farai!

Today we crossed into Mozambique to see Practical Action work just the other side of the border. At the moment Mozambique is noticeably poorer than the neighbouring area of Zimbabwe, although colleagues tell me that a year ago it was a prime shopping area for Zimbabweans when their shops had nothing.

The approach here has similarities and differences with Zimbabwe – there is still the emphasis on getting electricity to schools and clinics, but more of the sites will be in private hands, with the ‘owners’ and users each contributing to a revolving fund which will then pay for maintenance and finance the further expansion of the project.

Again I spoke with people who are looking forward to having better education and healthcare, much shorter walks to grinding mills, lighting and TVs. I am not sure until this visit that I had recognised the importance of TV, whether individually or community owned. One woman I spoke to today told me that she went to bed each evening between 7 and 8 pm as there was nothing to do and so she tried to sleep after her evening meal and listening briefly to the radio – I calculate that she is getting between 10 and 11 hours sleep each evening. Lovely occasionally but pretty dire if you sleep so long only out of boredom.

The men in southern Africa all want to be able to have a TV in their communities in time for the 2010 World Cup. The women talk of educating their children and maybe relaxing.

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