How female WASH heroes can inspire a nation

What you need to know:
Fetching water for their families is still an arduous task for many women in the rural areas of Tanzania. Female WASH heroes are providing inspiration for the entire nation.

It is a reality that is often overlooked: in many rural areas in Tanzania the access to safe drinking water is still a major issue. Especially for women and girls. Lack of piped water extensions or simply high water bills are forcing women and girls to walk for hours through dangerous areas to fetch water and face long waiting lines at the water point.

But there is also another side to this story, discovered Mohammed Hammie, journalist and storyteller for social change. Hammie gained recognition through his book Mandiga’s Well, receiving an honorary award from the Tanzania Literary Fund, being one of the top five award nominees at James Currey African Literature and nominated in Nigeria for the Quramo Writers’ Prize 2022. The journalist collaborated with SIMAVI, E-MAC Tanzania, and CEMDO to create a comic version of the book, which was subsequently published on Amazon. Through collaboration with the Dutch NGO SIMAVI the book was also selected in the Partos Innovation Festival in the segment of Creative Storytelling for Social Change.

As a journalist, Hammie experienced that people living in rural areas lack the opportunity to raise their voice in mainstream media. In 2019 he quit his job as a radio editor to change this and become a bridge between communities and political leaders. He decided to focus on water, because it’s the solution to many problems related to health, education, and poverty.

Through the WASH & Learn 3.0 programme, supported by the Dutch NGO Simavi in collaboration with the Tanzanian NGOs E-MAC Tanzania and CEMDO, the journalist has worked for the last few months on capturing the untold stories of women who have heroically brought change to their communities. The stories stem from the efforts done by E-MAC Tanzania and CEMDO in Arusha and Ifakara respectively to advocate for meaningful women’s inclusion in water governance.

Through CEMDO’s efforts in Ifakara comes the story of Hadija Rashid, chairperson of Tangini sub-village in Ifakara. She is a strong, courageous women and change-maker in her village, tells Hammie. She successfully drilled twelve wells in her own area, and another eight in a village near her. Experiencing the hardships of fetching water as a girl made her determined to ensure that one day her community would get safe and clean water. Not only has she kept the promise she made to herself, but she also encouraged women leaders in the village to work with her towards water delivery for each and everyone. Water can not only be the starting point for healthy lives, but also a steppingstone for women to realize their full potential.

Hadija Rashid, a chairperson of the Tangini sub-village in Ifakara. She successfully drilled twelve wells in her area, and another eight in a village near her.

In Arusha; through E-MAC’s undertakings rises the story of Margreth Augustino from the village of Ilkirevi in Olturoto ward is another WASH whose story was captured and shared. She was elected as the only woman on the water committee formed and strengthened by E-MAC through the WASH & Learn program that is supported by Simavi. Her efforts in the water committee however were somehow limited given the nature of the area she worked in; however, she took matters in her own hands. Thanks to her, two hundred households now have access to water through drilled wells for free; and she is not done yet.

Margreth Augustino, a resident of Olturoto ward Arusha, Tanzania. She has drilled a well at her home. Now two hundred households have access to water, for free.

The efforts in the WASH & Learn program have led to the story about Hellen Mollel from Siwandeti, a small village in the Kiranyi ward. As the only woman on the MOKITAISO water committee formed and strengthened by E-MAC Tanzania, which covers 10 villages, she is permanently on the go to properly manage the water sources and pushing the eight men on the committee to help her.

Hellen Mollel a woman from Siwandeti village, Kiranyi ward Arusha, Tanzania. Currently, she is the representative of women in the water committee called (Moktaiso) which covers 10 villages and six wards.

To celebrate these water heroes and inspire entire communities; through support from Simavi in collaboration with grassroot organizations (E-MAC Tanzania and CEMDO) and Hammie; number of two events were hosted in both Ifakara and Arusha in to showcase the video spots that have been made. People from the villages in the area gathered at night to watch the videos and interact with the women on stage. More than 1,000 people attended the latest event.

Community members shared their learnings. “Watching this video inspired me. I believe that women can do something great in the community, regardless of their gender. They can lead and bring a huge change”, said Mustafa Lazaro from Kiberege village.

Video spots showcase at Mangu’ula secondary school ground in Kilombero district.

The responses on the radio show about the women, reaching more than half a million listeners were also positive. “Hadija is a role model to learn from, she has shown that women can do it! Tanzania needs more female leaders in solving water challenges”, texted a male listener from Namwala. Another one asked his fellow men to follow these women’s example. “Women have been at the forefront of solving the water problem in the villages, and we must support and encourage them”

It is to the greatest expectations of the partners (Simavi, E-MAC, CEMDO and Hammie) hope to not only inspire other women in these rural and underserviced communities to take action, but also get political leaders thinking. “If a woman like Hadija, who started with absolutely nothing, manages to have such impact on improving the drinking water situation in her ward, how much more our political leaders could accomplish if they would set their mind to it and use the resources, skills and power available to them.”

The partners are convinced that giving a platform to the voices of WASH heroes like Hadija, Margreth and Hellen, will not only empower other women and their communities, but also enlighten the political debate about the importance of investing in drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in even the most remote areas of Tanzania.

Mohammed Hammie in the middle with Hellen Mollel a woman from Siwandeti village wearing a blue sweater with Ms. Kalvira Florry who is a project officer of WASH & Learn 3.0 project from E-MAC organization.

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