By Sandra Chibaya
WOMEN in Mbundane township, a residential area in Bulawayo are still getting water from unprotected open wells and pits, old dilapidated boreholes and often have to buy water from nearby plots.
Their hopes of getting piped water to their homes has remained unrealized for the past eight years in which the burden of collecting, storing and managing water has often fallen on women and girls.
They stand in long queues for hours after walking long distances in rough and dangerous terrains to collect untreated water. In many cases they have had to pay exorbitant amounts of money to secure clean water.
Mbundane area is located in Lower Rangemore and falls under Umguza RDC though it is within the Bulawayo master plan approved by the Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development in 2004.
There is no BCC piped water. The area takes the form of a rural set-up with a shallow blair toilet located at every corner of their four (4) by twelve (12) square meter yards. About one thousand houses rely on three (3) old and dilapidated boreholes which have not been serviced in a very long time. Not only are they utilizing water from unprotected wells, the wells are located along Phekiwe sewage stream, which poses health and drowning risks for local children.
“This is not an ideal environment for women to live in. Lack of water means no flashing system for toilets, so most people have resorted to using pits. Our yards are very small and the toilets are located barely a meter away facing the house. It’s so unhygienic… At least in the rural areas blair toilets are meters away from homes, what does this make us?” said a female resident we found at one of the shallow wells.
“Honestly the odour from the toilets diffuses and reaches our households.” Said a woman only identified as MaiTawananyasha
A female tenant renting a room in one of the stands said, “Some have installed JOJO tanks, landowners to be specific, as for us tenants we cannot afford it. Rentals are already a challenge as it is.”
Some women found washing their clothes at the water pits said, all in all there are three boreholes in this area, 2 were privately drilled and one has to pay to fetch water, it’s also time tabled.
“The free borehole is now old and always under repair. It’s been long since it was serviced hence we don’t rely on it. The water is rusty, so we are forced to buy water for drinking and cooking.” they added.
“Not all of us can afford to buy water on daily bases, its too expensive. I buy one bucket for purposes of drinking and cooking, as for the rest of the chores, I join my fellow women at the open pits koPhekiwe. That’s where most of us fetch water for bathing, washing and watering livestock like chickens and crops.” said one of the women who refused to be identified.
“I last washed my blankets 8 years ago when I moved to this area. There’s no way l can buy water for family consumption and also buy for washing blankets…ahhh!!! that’s luxury.” she added.
Women actually carry their dirty clothes to the stream bank; it is from this area where they wash their clothes and spread them on rocks to dry.
“We go kumakomba and wash, wait for our clothes to dry while we fetch water to take home and at times others work on their small gardens while they wait.” said a woman called MaiRoddy who was also washing her clothes.
The stream bank has become a conducive vegetable site, each woman has a portion where she grows vegetables for her family’s consumption and some actually sell to the local community.
It’s even better during this rainy season, as women maximize harvesting water from roof tops. It’s not an easy experience though, and the women say they wonder how long they will continue to survive this way.