|RUC2014 Blog 2: From self-help group to life-changing water company|
|Monday, 26 January 2015 16:15|
How can research contribute to unlocking the potential of girls and women in Wandiege Community, Kisumi County, Nairobi? This article, first published by University of Nairobi and produced by UoN’s Susan Wanjiru Muchina as part of a Research Uptake Communications [RUC2014] coaching programme, tells the story of how a community-driven water intervention is making an impact.
Life in Wandiege Community
Imagine access to safe water trapping you in a cycle of struggle, preventing you from improving your life? A research-supported self-help group took action in Wandiege community, Kenya, ultimately becoming entrepreneurs running a sustainable water company that’s transforming women’s lives.
It’s a half kilometre walk to the River Auji, but the women of Wandiege, a poor informal settlement known as Manyatta B on the east side of Kisumu County, have to walk this distance to fetch their water from the river. Traditionally, women in this region are responsible for fetching water for the whole household, so bear the brunt of poor water access, and of the poor sanitation that plagues the Wandiege Community. It's not only adult women that are caught in this trap of gender norms and scarce resources that include negative impacts on health, time and energy available for investment in productive activities. Girl children are sometimes forced to be late or even miss school to help their mothers fetch water, impacting on their education.
The Wandiege Community sought to address their situation. A self-help group was formed with the initial aim of sensitizing the community to the area’s poor water and sanitation situation. Sensitization campaigns were held, community support was solicited and technical advice offered by non-governmental organization, SANA International. These interventions lead to the idea of a water supply project for the region.
Wandiege and Bandani: informal settlements with and without access to safe water.
Critical issues faced
Under Kenya’s Water Act of 2002, WASCOs (Autonomous Water and Sanitation Companies) are given the responsibility to provide water and sanitation services within urban areas. In Kisumu County where the Wandiege Community reside, access to water was to be provided by the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO). However, like most other informal, low-income settlements in Africa, Wandiege was not connected to KIWASCO. No water connection and no sewerage system explain why water was a scarce commodity in Wandiege and why poor sanitation and health issues prevailed. Wandiege community needed a solution!
The birth of the water project
The idea of a community water project came to light at the Wandiege Primary School in late 2001, through a programme focussing on health and development in Africa. Through the programme, water and sanitation were identified as major concerns in the area, which needed to be addressed.
Armed with a vision of every resident enjoying clean water and appropriate sanitation facilities, the project sought to:
With the completion of the WASCO (Wandiege Water and Sanitation Company Ltd) project in 2006
A comparison between Wandiege households who were connected to the community water supply company, and households in Bandani – another informal settlement with similar characteristics, but with no such intervention –reveals to what extent this intervention has improved the lives of people in Wandiege. In particular, the intervention has benefitted women and girl-children, who are typically expected to take responsibility for “looking for water” in Africa.
As a result of the WASCO water connections, residents of Wandiege Community now spend an average of seven minutes per day fetching water compared to the pre-connection thirty-one minute average. For the woman or girl-child responsible for the household’s water, that, along with decreased exposure to water-borne diseases, is a life-changer. And one that opens up further opportunities for life improvement and transformation.
The gift and burden of water in Wandiege Community, Kisumi County, Nairobi
Call to Action
This article was informed by ‘From self-help group to water company: The Wandiege Community Water Supply Project' by Samuel O. Owuor & Dick Foeken. Find the original version of this website article on UoN’s Research Production and Extension website here and link to the original academic research publication here.
This website article is the result of an initiative that involved UoN’s Research, Production and Extension Unit providing Research Uptake Communications support to a researcher, to enhance awareness of development research being done at the University.
Susan Wanjiru Muchina,
Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Production and Extension),
University of Nairobi
Dr. Samuel Owuor,
Geography and Environmental Studies,
University of Nairobi,
University of Nairobi www.uonbi.ac.ke