How Integrity Helps Women Participate In Rural Water Projects.

Ms Jamila Athumani from Chakachani. A woman who elected by her fellow citizens to manage water project.

“When we talk about Integrity, let’s not just look at whether this project is for the government or the donors, integrity starts with me — so even if you have a personal water project, it’s best to run the project with integrity.” Said Mr. George Ochieng from Kenya Water for Health Organization during the water integrity radio show.

Between May 11 to May, 18 2021 Water Integrity Network aired two radio programs at Mwambao FM radio that is based in Tanga, Tanzania. The radio programs looked at the gaps in understanding of integrity in the water sector in Tanzania.

The programs relied on Kenyan knowledge to help create awareness, understanding and relevance of the impact of integrity measures namely: transparency, accountability and citizen participation. The programs made deliberate efforts to enable the citizens to have a better understanding of the term Water Integrity in the context of Tanzania.

During the radio shows Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO) and Centre for Social Planning and Administrative Development (CESPAD) shared their knowledge and experiences based on integrity, advocacy that promoted a lot of learnings.

This project was a voluntary activity, initiated by Mohammed Hammie, a journalist who works on the human rights to safe water and sanitation in Tanzania, with over twelve years’ experience in diverse aspects of journalism.

The radio programs managed to interview 12 citizens in different villages in Tanga region, in the villages of Mtimbwani, Kizingani and Chakachani.

“I have never been involved in any water project here in the village although we have a well that is currently damaged. We are still using the well. On the other hand, I’ve seen our government officials bring donors here in the village to dig a well for us, but they do things themselves by not involving the people, you just hear that donors have come to dig wells, but we have never been called and involved. We just hear that donors bring water, then you sit quietly and thank God”. Said Ms Tabia Omary from Kizingani village during the interview, when she responded on the issue of water project participation.

Ms Tabia Omary from Kizingani village during the interview with Mohammed Hammie.

On the issue of transparency she added, “To be honest, I do not know the cost of building the well and I have never heard of it, the well is damaged, broken at the edge even though we still use it. But no one knows its cost. There was a time when we used to pay for water for a hundred shillings per bucket, but the village water committee did not disclose revenue and expenditure, so citizens no longer contribute a hundred shillings for water, and a damaged well needs repair”.

To share knowledge and experiences based on integrity George Ochieng from KWAHO responded that, there are various benefits if a community is involved in a water project, first the community will own the project, because you can take the project to a community where people do not accept it. But when you involve the community, the project will be their priority and they will take good care of it due to their involvement in the entire project cycle. In case the project break downs, the community will come out strongly to ensure that operations and maintenance are well addressed.

“If the community is not involved in water projects, they will often see that the project is government-owned or donor-owned, as a result they will isolate themselves from those projects especially when there are responsibilities to be undertaken.” Added Mr. Ochieng.

Also Ms Valentine Mbuthia from CESPAD said that if the citizens are of the view that the money they pay for water service is not well utilized, they will stop paying and this can lead to system break down and non-functionality of the system. In effort to sustain water project, there must be transparency in the use of that money.

Ms Jamila Athumani from Chakachani was another villager interviewed during the production of radio programs on water integrity with the focus on women’s participation in water projects and integrity.

Ms Jamila Athumani from Chakachani.

Ms Jamila was elected by her fellow citizens to manage water project because she was the frontrunner in the fight for water to be brought to the village. So citizens thought she would be able to manage the project well.

“Since we were handed over this water project, no damage has ever happened. Because there are times when I have to clean it up and make sure it’s okay. We have not changed anything for repairs, and no one is missing water. Even at night, I get up and open the door for anyone”. Said Ms Jamila.

She proceeded to say that “I think there is a great need for women to continue to be involved in water projects, because women are biggest water stakeholders and we are the ones who have the most water use. Men will wake up in the morning to go to work, when he returns he will need to find his clothes washed, he will get water for bathing, food will be cooked and the house will be clean. And all that without water nothing can be done. So the woman is the biggest stakeholder in the water and I call on my fellow women to be confident and strong. Managing a water projects like this is not a difficult task”.

From men perspective, Mr. Hassan Juma a village chairperson from Chakachani said that “We held a meeting with all citizens and decided that this project should be managed by women, we believed that empowered women can. We also saw that women are more honest than men. Many water projects are ruined or dying because of men, men we are greedy when we get money. But the women are very honest.”

Mr. Hassan Juma a village chairperson from Chakachani during the interview with Mohammed Hammie.

Mr. Hassan added that, right now the situation of water is good. Women sleep until morning, when they wakes up they are sure there is water. He is also grateful that women have been at the forefront in caring for the project as they are aware of the challenges they went through before accessing the water project.

In her comments when airing the radio show, Ms Valentine Mbuthia from CESPAD said that women must be involved in water projects, that will be easier for them to defend their rights and they will have a chance to be heard, because in the absence of water they are the ones who suffer.

“There are many reasons why women are not involved in water projects, one of which is our culture — in which women are not allowed to speak in front of a men’s conference. So even in a meeting, a woman is not given a chance to speak, and when she speaks her opinion is not taken seriously. So we must change our culture.” Added Ms Valentine.

Also George Ochieng from KWAHO said that it’s important to involve women in water issues, women are like home doctors, when there is a water problem it becomes easier for them to address and save lives.

“Women are very good at issues of integrity, when they are involved they often see the project as their own and they will manage it well. We have seen that Ms. Jamila has managed the water project well” Added Mr. Ocheing.

You have the opportunity to listen to the radio programs by clicking on the links below:

Approximately 980,000 listeners reached by the radio programs on water integrity throughout Tanga region in coastal Tanzania. Also in the neighbouring regions of Same, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Island, Morogoro, and Mombasa in Kenya.

I am a journalist who works on the human rights to safe water and sanitation, with over twelve years’ experience in diverse aspects of journalism in Tanzania.