Fetching water keeps girls out of school

My name is Sandra Dube* (*Not her real name). Every morning I wake up at 5 a.m. to fetch water for the family. Sometimes my mother accompanies me to the water source, which is about four kms away from our home.

Girls fetching water.
Girls fetching water.

On my way to the water source, I usually meet my classmates heading to school. I am often late for school and on some days I totally miss classes because of the long queues at the water source. At times, I cannot attend classes because I will be tired.

Imagine walking for four kms with a 20 litre bucket full of water on your head. The doctor at the village clinic once advised us that we must be careful with our water loads as heavy loads can lead to physical damage to our backs and necks.

Maybe that explains why my mother always complains about her back and now cannot carry heavy loads over long distances.

I want to become a nurse when I complete my studies, and this can only be achieved if I excel at school and go to a nurses’ training institution. But this may remain a dream for me as I may fail to sit my O level exams next year.

My grandmother told me that 15 years ago, government officials identified a site to sink a borehole close to our homestead. However, little progress has been made to drill the borehole. The village only gets to hear about the project each time there is an election. Once the election is over, the project dies. Do politicians really care about us?

In 2010, I lost my one-year-old brother to a water-borne disease. My friend who stays at the next homestead lost her mother to cholera. Many villagers fell sick because they had drunk contaminated water.

My teacher told us that according to a 2009 UNICEF report, nearly 4000 children under five years old die every day from diarrhoea caused by contaminated food or drinking water around the world. After the death of my young brother, my mother insists that we boil the water first before drinking it. Boiling water from unprotected sources purifies it.

Dube’s story is not an isolated case as there are many families in Southern Africa in the same situation. Access to safe, clean drinking water is a basic human right and is essential for achieving gender equality, sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

According to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), the world’s health sectors would save around $12 billion a year if everyone had access to adequate and clean water services. – Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.

Post published in: Africa News

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