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Water: the Gift of Empowerment

June 21, 2011

By pwrdf

Habiba Natenda lives in the village of Mtalikachau in rural Masasi, Tanzania.  Each day, she had to walk 10kilometres to fill a 20 litre bucket of water, then walk the 10 kilometres back home with that bucket on her head.

“Traditionally, it is us [women] who fetch or collect the water for domestic use, but because of climate change it is getting more and more difficult to get water.  We are having serious problems of water shortages and walking long distances to lower lands where there are locally dug wells and seasonal swamps, which are always susceptible to pollution.  …[20 litres of water] is not enough for our families, especially for a family with five or six members, and we cannot manage to go twice a day to the water sources,” she explains.

In rural Masasi, women are traditionally in charge of fetching the water, and men are in charge of managing water resources.  With a 20km walk each day to get water, young women were unable to attend school, and older women were unable to participate in farming or other activities to generate income for their families.  The swamps and shallow wells that Habiba and others were forced to use were often contaminated, and led to outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid.  These conditions struck hardest at children.

PWRDF has worked with the Diocese of Masasi and the Canadian International Development Agency to provide clean water to Mtalikachau and nine other villages in rural Masasi.  70 metres deep bore holes have been dug, a 150,000 litres water tank has been constructed, and two existing bore holes and 10 shallow-wells have been rehabilitated and protected.  Thanks to this work, over 33,000 people in these communities now have access to clean water.  There has been a 45% reduction in cases of cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, and other water-born diseases since the project began.

All of this work was overseen by village committees (consisting of men and women) who PWRDF trained to manage water resources and repair water pumps.  The women who have been part of these committees are proud and confident because, for the first time, they are fully involved in all aspects of managing the water supply for their community.  Additionally, the women now have more time for farming, marketing and studying, as they do not have to walk 20 kilometres a day on their search for water.

All of this change has made life much better for Habiba and the other women living in Mtalikachau.

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