Water is life and central to all aspects of life. Access to water is a human right and makes life easier for everyone. Water is basically the cornerstone of socio-economic development.
As we close the Women’s Month at the end of August, it is crucial to look at the challenges that impede the development of women, especially rural women as they are the ones who bear the brunt of the social ills in society and address them to give women an equal footing in life. Women in rural areas do not have access to the opportunities enjoyed by women in the urban areas, so more focus must be on exposing the rural women to the available opportunities so as to make them on par.
Water, due to its centrality to all facets of life is a major challenge affecting the development of women in rural areas. Access to water is still a challenge to most rural areas and the onus rests with women to ensure that they fetch water for their families. Women and the girl child have the responsibility to wake up early in the morning to go fetch water from the rivers and streams. The burden of ensuring water availability at the homesteads basically rests on women.
The water supply challenge in rural areas negatively affects the development of women, especially the girl child. Girls in rural areas have to fetch water in the morning and this poses a serious challenge in their educational development thereby affecting their prospects in life and their future. Waking early in the morning to do heavy chores like fetching makes the girl child tired thereby affecting their performance at school. Poor performance leads to them dropping out of school placing them at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives.
Waking up early in the morning looking for water also puts women at risk of being victims of heinous crimes such as rape and murder. Unscrupulous criminals prey on vulnerable women and this leaves a lasting scar on women diminishing their dignity and confidence in life. This mental scar leaves a lasting feeling of fear and lack of confidence making them inferior and unable to reach their full potential.
Government’s Covid-19 water tanks interventions in most parts of the country have gone a long way in bringing water closer to communities, especially in the rural areas. In as much as the tanks are there in the communities, it is crucial that they do not turn into white elephants by ensuring that they are regularly filled for people to have a reliable water supply.
The government also needs to fast track and intensify water supply infrastructure development in rural areas to ease the burden of fetching water from rivers and streams by the women. This will go a long way in providing an equal footing for rural women to compete and take the available opportunities aimed at women development and empowerment.
In as much as the government has the responsibility to ensure access to water for communities, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to protect the water supply infrastructure from vandalism and theft. Tampering with water supply infrastructure and illegal connections also leaves communities without water. It is therefore important to be responsible citizens and safeguard our water supply infrastructure for the benefit of our communities, especially our women who bear the hardship of irresponsible behaviour and actions.
Infrastructure vandalism, illegal connections and all other irresponsible actions towards water infrastructure lead to water losses and South Africa as a dry and water-scarce country cannot afford to even lose a single drop of precious water. It is now more than ever before critical to behave in a more responsible manner and intensify water conservation efforts to ensure reliable water supply, especially as the country fight the scourge of the deadly coronavirus. Water is life, so let us make every drop count for the benefit of all. Let us all be responsible water users and relieve our beautiful women of the stress of worrying about where to get water for their families.
Water is life and the main ingredient to women development and empowerment, so let us treat it with the care and respect it deserves like we care and respect our women.