Women as water warriors

United Purpose | Liv Sawyer from United Purpose, on 09/09/2017 01:15 AEST

Women have been lagging behind in leadership in many communities in Phalombe District. However, in Mwanapa village, seven of the ten members of the water point committee are women, and all the leadership positions within the committee (chairperson, vice chairman, treasurer and secretary) are occupied by women.

The committee was trained in Community Based Management (CBM) by United Purpose, (UP) formally known as Concern Universal (CU), under the PE CS WASH project. “It was from the CBM training that we learnt that women can also take up leadership positions,” said Elida Mawola the chairperson of the Mwanapwa water point committee. The women in the committee carry out maintenance of the borehole. “We no longer wait for men to tell us what to do; we do make the decisions on our own, narrated Judith Kamoto, treasurer of the water point committee.

As primary users of the borehole, it is important that women are now able to have more influence in decision-making around the borehole. Under the leadership of women, the committee has been highly successful. For example, the committee has established Bank pa Mjingo (Village Savings and Loans) in which the borehole is the member. This ensures the committee has readily available funds for maintenance of the borehole. Furthermore, there are many Jatropha trees in the vicinity and the committee has plans to use the Jatropha seed to make soap once the trees have grown, which will improve hygiene in the area.

In Mwanapwa village, it was predominantly men who selected the women in the committee upon seeing the challenges the women when it comes to issues that have to do with water. “We chose more women since they are the ones who go to fetch water and also after learning something on gender,” said the group village headman Mwanapwa. The chairperson of the committee, Elida Mawola, has changed how she understands gender roles as a result of the training: I used to think that leadership positions belonged to men but this changed after the CBM training and also after being selected as a chairperson of the committee."

At first, Elida Malowa thought that by being the chairperson of the water point committee would mean that her voice would be overshadowed by the men and that she would have little influence in the decision-making. However, after the CBM training she gained confidence and now successfully makes key decisions and leads the committee. “We respect Elida and give her all the necessary support in the committee as our chairperson,” narrated James Khoviya, a committee member.