Empowering Rural Women; Challenges/Opportunities

Women empowerment leads to higher economic growth and a better quality of life for women and men alike.  Despite progress, it is still the case today that rural women’s double burden of farming, search for water and unpaid domestic work prevents them from participating fully and fairly in community development and income-generating activities. Improving rural women’s access to technologies that save time and labour is essential to reducing their workloads. Transforming gender relations within the family is also crucial to empowering women and enabling them to make decisions about their lives which affects their community at large.

So many times gender-biased social norms, laws and practices can also limit women’s access to essential assets including natural resources and education as well as social assets such as participation in rural organizations and other decision-making bodies like borehole resource committees. As a result, their ability to reach their full potential and influence decision is seriously undermined.

As Uganda today joins the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day under the theme ‘Empowering Rural Women; Challenges/Opportunities’, we look to appreciate the roles played by women in provision and maintenance of clean safe water to the community.

The borehole projects have given women the opportunity to participate actively in water resource management and decision making by allowing them access to each Water Resource Committee which encourages fair representation for both genders. It is a requirement that the 10-man committee should consist of at least 4 to 5 women to fill the gender gap. For long, rural women had been over shadowed and their roles limited to the household yet the activities they do, given the opportunity is a great game changer.

We visited Ilera borehole in Apala village, Kole District which is under the Lango Safe Water project area to speak to the women on their roles in the Water Resource Committee and this is what they had to say.

‘My name is Nestina Okoko Bosco aged 46 and a water user of Ilera borehole. I have a family of 10 members and live 300 meters away from the borehole. I was elected as the Vice chairperson of this borehole and given the roles of managing the borehole meetings, ensuring that the borehole is functioning well and the records are properly kept. I also sit in for the chairman in his absence during the monthly meetings and help decide on rising matters concerning the borehole’.

‘My name is Flo Ogwang, aged 35 and a member of the Ilera borehole Water User Committee. I am in charge of preventing children from playing with and around the borehole, maintaining hygiene around the borehole and any other matters that concern the source. I am happy with my roles because I get to participate in the borehole activities’.

‘I am Brenda Akullo and a mobilizer of the borehole committee. I am in charge of mobilizing people to clean the borehole, dig the trenches and soak pit, mend the fences and inform the water users about meetings. I also participate in the meetings and make suggestions to help improve on our borehole’.

‘My name is Dorcus Apio, aged 45 and a mother of 7 children. I am the treasurer of Ilera borehole and my roles are collecting water user fees, keeping records of the money collected and participating in the decision making process of how and when the money will be spent. I am also in charge of releasing funds for borehole activities like minor repairs and accounting for the funds in the treasury. I am grateful for this position because it has made me gain respect in society and in my household’.

‘My role as the caretaker of Ilera borehole is to make sure that the borehole is well fenced, the surrounding is clean by sweeping daily, ensure no animals access the source, make sure the people clean their water collection containers before accessing the borehole and supervise that the soak pit is well constructed’, says 35 year old Margaret Connie who lives 100 meters from the borehole. ‘I also control the use of the water source by regulating the time people are allowed to fetch water by opening and closing the borehole‘.

However, the men also have roles they play in the committee which are not limited to;

  1. Search for Strong poles for fencing and do the whole job of fencing the Borehole
  2. Settle disputes/grievance that always arise as a result of congestion at source
  3. Work with women generate water user fee and borehole management
  4. Facilitate water resource meetings
  5. Support pump mechanics and co2balance team in repair and maintenance of the Borehole in case of breakdown.

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