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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Gender-sensitive Local Stakeholder Consultation Meeting

On the 16th of January 2018, co2balance’s Lango Safe Water project carried out another Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting in Apala sub-county, Alebtong District. This was held to mark the launch of the Gender-sensitive Methodology as a requirement by Gold Standard.

This comes with the need for inclusion of gender-sensitive guidelines for the Lango projects in order to incorporate the monitoring of gender-based indicators into the borehole projects. This is meant to monitor the impacts of the projects on mainly women who for a long time have not taken center stage in borehole maintenance activities yet they are the primary collectors of water.  There are impacts such as women having to spend less time collecting water hence having the opportunity to engage in new livelihood projects that provide an extra income for their families. This new gender concept is a good opportunity to measure these impacts quantitatively and possibly improve the projects to enhance the positive impacts for men and women.

We were joined by the District Water Officer, the Chairman Water Board, Community Development officers, Women’s groups, local chiefs and village elders, water users from various boreholes and representatives from other Non-governmental Organizations.

A gender expert was invited to expound on the gender topic and explain its concept in detail, highlighting the need to first identify and understand gender gaps and why they exist in relation to the borehole projects.

The meeting was attended by over 70 participants from both genders who contributed greatly to the meeting by engaging with the moderators and presenters. The participants were divided into 3 groups namely youth below 35 years, women above 35 years and men above 35 years that held Focus Group Discussions (FDGs) about the various topics raised in the meeting. This was in a bid to enable all the groups discuss freely and express their views without prejudice.

The meeting took 3 hours with fair timing for all activities in the programme to be discussed satisfactorily. This also gave room for active participation from the audience that contributed greatly to the topic and had a question and answer session for further understanding. During the meeting, we were able to listen to different testimonies from the participants especially the women, giving their views on before and after the project implementation. A majority of the women who are primary collectors of water said that before the borehole was moved to the heart of the community, they faced lots of difficulty like traveling long unsafe distances to collect water, facing challenges like rape, assault and domestic violence because of the delay when collecting water.

Many of the women said they faced challenges of assault while collecting water from the open wells as there was no particular order of water collection at these sources. They explained that most times they and the children would be intimidated or even assaulted by the men who came to collect water at these sources and since they were not as strong as the men, they would be overpowered.

The women were happy about the sensitization at the meeting because even with the borehole close to them and some of them already being in the water resource committee, they were glad to know that it’s not just enough to be part of the committee but also to actively participate in borehole maintenance activities and decision making. They also believe that with the sensitization, they can have an equal footing with the men as far as order at the water source is concerned. They believe that there will be reduced cases of intimidation faced by the women, children and the youth.

The meeting was concluded with a round of collecting feedback from the participants about their view of the project and most of the participants loved the project and requested for more community engagement at borehole level and project expansion.

Pauline Vialatte’s visit to Uganda

Following the recent partnership between Co2balance and EcoAct Group, a company that provides unique expertise in planning for and implementing positive change in response to climate and carbon challenges, we had the privilege of hosting their Consultant – Pauline Vialatte.

Pauline who was visiting Uganda for the very first time had the chance to visit the projects under VPA 74 in Northern Uganda to learn more about the borehole projects. The purpose of her visit was to gain more experience and understanding of the projects and its impacts/benefits to the communities. Under VPA 74, she was able to visit 8 boreholes and have community engagement with the beneficiaries.

During the community engagements, the water users shared the changes they have experienced since clean safe water was brought to the heart of the community. They spelt out benefits including but not limited to improved health, sanitation and hygiene, enough spare time to engage in other income generating activities, increased school enrollment for the girl child since they no longer have to travel long distances in search of water and wood fuel. They also gave testimonies of the different activities they have been able to engage in as a result of the time saved from collecting water from distant water points.

Pauline visited some of the old unsafe water sources that were being used by the communities before the rehabilitation of the boreholes.

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Pauline looks at one of the old water sources previously used by Anyonomac community

She was also able to visit different households and learn more about their adaptation to  climate change and scarcity of wood fuel. This included how they are moving from cooking using open three-stone fires to more improved methods.

At the end of her trip, Pauline received several gifts on behalf of EcoAct Group from the borehole users as a sign of great appreciation for her visit.

 

Growing Need for More Water

According to the Uganda Bureau of Standards, ‘Safe drinking water is water that is free from disease-causing organisms, toxic chemicals, color, smell, and unpleasant taste. In Uganda, safe drinking water is defined as water from a tap and piped water system, borehole, protected well or spring, rain water, or gravity flow schemes. Open water sources including ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, water holes, unprotected springs, shallow wells, and are considered unsafe water sources which if consumed without treating may cause various diseases’. UBOS

With all the above mentioned water sources, access to clean safe water continues to be a major challenge to the ever increasing population in Uganda. The rampant economic growth in Uganda has led to population increase which comes with high demands for provisions like water, health facilities, and infrastructure among others. Movements from rural areas to informal settlements around urban centers leaves the rural areas much neglected as all service provision is focused in the urban areas.

Otuke District in Northern Uganda is one of the areas that was severely affected by the civil war under the attack of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels which saw many people migrate to urban areas in search of safety and social amenities. After the war, the people started to slowly return to their homes but provision of social services still remained on a low.

As co2balance continuously expands its safe water projects in Northern Uganda, there continues to be a need a growing need for more water as many more people return to settle in their various villages.

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Joel Okello – District Water Officer, Otuke

According to the District Water Officer of Otuke, the area is still water stressed with so many villages having non-functional boreholes as a result of high costs of rehabilitating them. This leaves many people completely relying on unsafe water sources like open wells, swamps, water holes for their domestic water.

The District water coverage is 67.3%, with water source functionality increasing to 73% from 62% in 2014 before the intervention of co2balance. The number of villages without boreholes still stands at 141 though the total number of dysfunctional boreholes has reduced’, says Joel.

According to him, the partnership with co2balance has helped increase water source functionality to 73%. Co2balance partnered with Otuke District Local government in 2014 after a multi-stakeholders consultative meeting was held. Co2balance’s role was to provide clean safe water to the villages through rehabilitation of broken down boreholes. To date, a total of 45 boreholes have been successfully rehabilitated in the villages in Otuke.

Much as something has been done, access to clean safe water continues to be a growing challenge as many people still rely on unsafe sources like these below.

It was a great visit – Thank you Toshiba TEC, MediaCom, Mark Simpson and Paul Chiplen.

The Uganda projects have continued to register success in providing safe clean water to the communities through the rehabilitation and maintenance of boreholes hence reduced dependency on firewood to boil their drinking water. This has been made possible by the partnership and continuous support from companies like MediaCom and Toshiba TEC through its Toshiba CarbonZero scheme.

At the close of October, MediaCom and Toshiba TEC accompanied by Mark Simpson and Paul Chiplen traveled over 4000 miles to come and visit the Lango safe Water projects in Northern Uganda with the purpose of learning more about the projects and meeting the communities benefiting from the clean water from these boreholes.

They were able to visit a number of boreholes in the districts of Kole and Otuke – part of the Lango areas where the projects are. The community engagement was very positive as they were able to learn more on how these boreholes have impacted on the lives of the people. The beneficiaries/water users appreciated the companies for the continuous support through great entertainment and hospitality in form of singing, dancing and passing a direct vote of thanks.

In addition to visiting the boreholes, they were also able to visit Abari Primary school, one of the beneficiaries of the Lango Safe Water project and CSR projects that were enrolled last year to provide solar lighting and health sensitization to schools in some of the project areas.

The trip was concluded with a visit to the great Murchison Falls National park – pictures tell it all.

On behalf of co2balance, thank you MediaCom and Toshiba TEC for the continuous support.

Karibu tena!

Tom’s First Visit to Uganda – Our Eastern & Northern Trip

Since the beginning of our Uganda projects in 2013, co2balance with the help of its partner Organisation WAACHA in Kaliro District and Project Officers in the Lango sub-region have continuously worked with the communities right from rehabilitating hand-pumped boreholes to maintaining them annually and doing reactive repairs when need arises. This has been done hand in hand with the community who provide unskilled labor when required. They also use their borehole user fees to contribute towards minor repairs at the boreholes which has given them a sense of ownership of these projects.

On a recent visit to the projects, I was joined by our Carbon Projects Officer Tom Urry who was visiting Uganda for the very first time and also meeting the communities that are beneficiaries to the project. We visited some boreholes and also had a chance to engage with the community and get their feedback on the project.

During our visit in Kaliro, we had the privilege to be joined by a team from Climate Neutral Group who had a chance to meet the borehole users. committee and also interact with the users of Mwanga and Masuna boreholes.

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Tom (extreme left) & the team from Climate Neutral Group

Hightlights from our trip

Borehole visits

We visited a number of boreholes, met their water user committee members and had some community engagement sessions. From our interaction, we learnt that the communities were putting into practice all that they had learnt from the last Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) training they received. They said that that much as they have learnt basic hygiene practices like washing hands after toilet use and before preparing and eating food, getting soap has continued to be a big challenge. Some afford it occasionally while for others, it doesn’t lead as a basic priority hence they do without it.

WASH

To address the challenge of difficulty in getting soap, as part of a WASH campaign, our partners WAACHA in Kaliro District decided to start training women groups attached to the boreholes in local soap making using plant materials and herbs. Apart from using this at home, they can also sell the soap and earn an extra income to meet other basic needs in their households.

With the training received from co2balance on basic hygiene in homes, the borehole users with the help of Village Health trainers have been able to improve on their sanitation facilities and also construct simple tippy taps near their toilets. This is to help cultivate the culture of washing hands after using the toilet.

Community engagement

In a bid to get the community involved in the projects, topping to the monthly monitoring visits, we were able to meet the communities, discuss their concerns and rising challenges and get their feedback on the project.

We were able to visit some of the old water sources that the borehole users entirely depended on before the boreholes were rehabilitated. This would prompt them to cut down more trees in order to get wood fuel for boiling their water but with this continued practice, wood became more scarce and expensive. This left some of them with no option but to take unsafe water hence getting waterborne diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, cholera among others.

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one of the unsafe water source used by the communities before the rehabs

With the government being one of our support systems in implementing these boreholes projects, we have continued to engage with them for the success of the project. Through the District Water officers and other local government staff, we are able to identify the boreholes to rehabilitate, monitor them, get household information among others.

We had the chance of paying a courtesy call to the sub-county offices at Omoro in Alebtong district which is home to many of our boreholes, with the latest addition being a solar pumped borehole rehabilitated recently to expand on the Lango Safe Water project.

On overall, the Kaliro and Lango sub-region borehole users are very happy with the projects and this is shown by their active involvement and prompt implementation of whatever recommendations they receive from the project officers’ monthly visits.

Rehabilitation of Omoro Sub-county Solar Powered Water Pump Scheme

In a continued drive to expand access to water in Northern Uganda, CO2balance recently repaired a solar powered borehole in Omoro sub-county that had been broken down for over 10 years. This borehole broke down at the peak of the insurgency caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in Northern Uganda. This solar pump was estimated to be serving over 2,500 people at the time of its breakdown which caused a major water crisis in the sub-region.

A solar-powered pump runs on electricity generated by photo-voltaic panels or the radiated thermal energy available from collected sunlight as opposed to grid electricity or diesel-run water pumps. A submersible pump is used and this pushes water to the surface by converting rotary energy into kinetic energy then into pressure. Solar pumps are an energy efficient, environmentally friendly way to pump water for various uses from domestic consumption to supporting agriculture activities.

The community at Omoro sub-county have been heavily relying on unsafe water sources as a result of the high population putting great pressure on a limited supply of boreholes which have not been well maintained and have therefore broken down. They further suffered a big water crisis early this year as a result of drought in the region. A growing population, including families moving in from neighboring districts, has heightened the pressure on water resources in the area.

With this new safe water source, access to clean safe water has been increased and many households will benefit from it. The solar powered pump scheme has storage pump tanks of up to 32,000 litres of water, feeding 5 distribution points which will ensure constant supply of water to the people of Omoro. The pioneering technology will ensure that water from a single borehole reaches 5 distribution points throughout Omoro, limiting the distance that users have to travel to access safe water.

This is the first time that we at CO2balance have incorporated a solar borehole into our project activities, having always previously focused on hand-powered boreholes. We are very excited at the potential of introducing a technology that, using the power of the sun, will extend clean, safe water to 5 times as many individuals as would be possible with a hand pump. Watch this space for updates on this project and we hope to repair many more solar boreholes in years to come!

Part of the community at Omoro