Women, the secret of sustainable access to drinking water

Women, the secret of sustainable access to drinking water

WATER WEEKDieudonne tells us how access to drinking water for rural populations of Tshopo province, in the north east of the DRC, has become sustainable thanks to women.

Drinking water in DRC

In the DRC, only one in two families have access to drinking water. In an attempt to resolve this situation, the DRC’s Ministry of Public Health established the ‘Healthy Villages and Schools’ programme.

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The aim of this project, amongst others, is to provide sustainable access to drinking water and a healthy environment for rural and semi-urban populations, for whom access is ever more difficult. Sustainability of the project centres on the community’s involvement in making decisions concerning water, sanitation and hygiene.

Tshopo Province : 92% of the population does not have access to drinking water.

Women in charge of managing the water points

Since it is usually women who are responsible for collecting water, they have to walk several kilometres every day. Women have been relieved of this chore in some villages of Tshopo Province, thanks to this programme which develops water points closer to communities.

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Inevitably, the problem is that the pumps, which are mainly manual, break down after a while. Since repairing these pumps requires imported materials and appropriate expertise, these wells are often abandoned.

Fortunately, these villages have rapidly found a solution to this problem by placing a woman in charge of maintaining and sustaining the pumps that service the wells.

Indeed, if giving women the same position as men is a target in itself, it is also an effective way of getting things done and developing the DRC.

Apolline Sindani, who lives in the village of Bafamba, explains “This is the greatest gift that the ‘Healthy Villages’ programme has given me during Women’s Month. I feel like I have the same status as men; I have skills and knowledge that were previously reserved only for men.”

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Thus, women have been trained in repairing the pumps using local materials. Beatrice Zuena, who is from the village of Badombi, completed this training. She explains how proud she is to be called an engineer.

“I am now able to repair the pump at my village’s well and help others.”

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These examples in Tshopo Province successfully demonstrate that the secret to sustaining the ‘Healthy Villages’ programme relies on genuine involvement in managing the water points.

These advances are all the more promising, Apolline concludes, by assuring us, “As women, we are particularly concerned with the issue of water provision and we are committed to passing on our acquired skills to other women. It is the only way our pumps will remain operational for the longest time possible.

More info about water issues in DRC

In DRC as in many countries around the world, UNICEF is working to improve water supply and sanitation in schools and communities and to promote hygienic practices . We support multiple and diverse activities and cooperate with many partners, including families, communities, governments and organizations sharing the same values.

Translated from French by Victoria Steele

Photo: UNICEF RDC 2015 Moise Ngitsi

Initially posted in 2015

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Dieudonne Muhindo

Dieudonne Muhindo est l'administrateur en Charge du Programme programme eau et assainissement de l'UNICEF à Kisangani.

Dieudonne Muhindo is the administrator in charge of the water and sanitation programme for UNICEF in Kisangani.

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