Water Crisis: Women's vital role in water schemes

WaterAid has always acknowledged that women play a vital role in the implementation of water schemes. They are crucial to preventative health care in the community, passing on information to family members. For women themselves water can be a life-changing force. Mengestie Bosana can testify to this. She is involved in the North Gondar project, initiated by WaterAid in l993 in association with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) and the regional Amharic government. The project provides water to 45 villages in the Gondar region of north west Ethiopia.

Mengestie lives in Awarda, a small village of windowless houses made of cow dung and straw, dependent on its crops of sorghum, tef and oil seeds. She has eight children and collects three 20 litre jerry cans of water every day for domestic use. "When we make our beer it's 11 times as much," she says. The main source of water is a spring which bursts out of the ground on an incline running from the church. The spring water is now being piped from its source through a concrete storage box to feed four collection points around the village.

The influence of the church is very strong in Ethiopia and is reflected in Mengestie's own reasons for becoming one of Awarda's health communicators (HCs). She says: "The community selected me to do this work. This is the work of the church. For us rural women the work is hard, but the work is my duty and given by God."

Along with her fellow HCs, Mengestie attended a three day training course on sanitation, water maintenance and health education. She then helped with a baseline survey in the village to assess water-related health problems, collecting information from every household in Awarda before work on the water supply began.

Sister Eradu Zegeye is head of the project's Health Education and Community Unit which uses a network of 96 HCs. Six female and two male HCs recommended by the church and community are recruited in each village along with two traditional birth attendants. By establishing a network of trained women throughout the villages, Sister Eradu can ensure health education is a fact of life in each household.

Sister Eradu says: "At first the women were shy. A woman is not traditionally allowed to talk in public in front of men. If they do people say: `You have married a bad woman.' Nor can they participate in life outside the home. They cannot speak openly at meetings. We had problems with some of their husbands at first.

"They disliked their wives going out, but are changing. The wives give their husbands health information to pass on at church gatherings. Initially the women were reluctant to talk about their personal problems, but it emerged they were worried about being dirty."

The popularity of the project's sanitation development which enables latrines to be easily constructed from locally available materials, not only highlights the growing awareness of the connection between human and animal faeces and water-borne disease, but also the problem of privacy for women. They have to wait until night before they go to the toilet.

The proximity of Lake Tana to the village belies its water problems. Heavy rains run off the crusty top soil, and springs and rivers used for drinking are shared with animals. Women stand beneath an ancient acacia tree which shades the route of the village's new gravity-fed water system.

Shashe Abeba is one of the two birth attendants who took part in a 21 day training course in Gondar. Along with her friends she has been collecting stones to cover the bed of the spring. The training course taught her the importance of clean water. "The water in our village was always dirty and we were sharing it with animals. Now we try to get them to go to the lake," she says.

According to Sister Eradu the involvement of women in the North Gondar project has had wide-reaching effects that have gone beyond the provision of efficient water supply systems.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick