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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Women celebrate access to clean water

By Margaret Matibiri

For most people, happiness is counted in material and monetary value, but for Tweezye Sibanda, a 21-year-old mother living deep in Kabuyu, Kabuyuni constituency, having access to clean running water and a makeshift school for her children is enough to keep her hopes for a better life alive.

Sibanda lost her mother when she was only eight years old. Her maternal grandmother took her back to her home and this was to be the last time the girl saw her father.

Her father, who had three other wives and other children to look after, abandoned her only to resurface in her life six years later after she had eloped.

Sibanda, who was now living in Kabuyu, would travel a total of 30 kilometres to and from school daily together with other children in the community.

When she was doing her Grade Four, her aging grandmother failed to raise money to pay for her education, a scenario common in the community at the time.

She dropped out of school and spent her days playing with other children in the same predicament.

Together with other women in the community, she would walk for two hours to the Buse River just to fetch water, a 20-litre container at a time but she would make three trips a day on average to get enough water for the household.

During the rain season, she would help out in the fields as well as take care of other household chores, and this summarised her life. Her biological clock ticked after her 10th birthday, boredom, poverty, old routines and the budding puberty forced her to ‘change’ her situation.

“I had nothing to look forward to in life,” Sibanda says.

“When I was 13 years old, I met my husband. He told me he loved me and wanted to start a family and grow old with me. The idea excited me, I was young and hopeful the new relationship would give me purpose and free me from the poverty at home as my inlaws were better off. I would not have to walk long distances to get water as they had a cart to help out.

“I was young, ill-informed with misplaced priorities.”

“I eloped, much to the disappointment of my grandmother. She was forced to make contact with my father who she had last seen five years earlier when my mother had passed on. In the heat of the moment, my father was angry and asking why I had not been in school, but nothing could be done to change the situation.”

At the age of 15, Sibanda gave birth to her first child and this was her turning point.

“Once I held my baby in my arms, it was a defining moment. I was determined more than ever to give her a life better than mine.

“She would be educated and determine her future and she would not marry early as I did.

“In 2020, the Africa Book Development Organisation (ADBO), which was working with the Korea Hope Foundation, came to our village. In the past, they would donate books for the communities, but now they wanted to bring clean water closer to us and make our lives better. We were skeptical at first and I was always present for all meetings, eager to know more and take part in this life-changing project. I became a member of the water committee, helping when the borehole was being drilled.”

The borehole was drilled and solar systems were put in place to pump the water to two water points approximately 1 kilometre apart to service the community.

“After the borehole was drilled, the taps were installed. I remember people would gather at the water point, turning the tap on and off just to marvel at the piece of technology that was bringing us clean water. For most of us it was the first time seeing a tap or even the solar panels used to pump water. Before the tap, we would drink water from the same source as our livestock and we had a lot of diarrhoea cases as a result. We are happy and proud to have it in our community.”

Sibanda, together with other women in Kabuyu, benefitted from a goat-rearing project donated to them by the Korea Hope Foundation working together with ABDO.

“For the first time, I owned something of my own. I was given two goats but now I have six. I milk these for drinking milk and it is part of my family’s diet. The goats and cattle from the village drink from these water points donated to us and it has made life easier. If my grandmother had been privileged enough to have projects like these, I would probably have managed to finish my education.

“There is yet to be a school in our community. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education said it will assist us to register the school once we have built at least one classroom block, a house for members of staff, and toilets. So far, we have the toilets and a shade to house ECD learners, but we are hopeful that we will get funding soon and build the school for our children.

Revai Kutema, aged 38, is also hopeful that a school will be built closer to them and make education easily accessible.

“At the moment, our children are walking three kilometres to school. Once it starts raining, they do not go to school because our area is isolated by rivers. Two children drowned from this community while going to the nearby school. As a result, our kids miss at least three months from the school calendar as a way of keeping them safe from crossing the flooded rivers.

“The current situation is not ideal as other children drop out of school during these annual breaks.”

Kutema, who is also a village health worker, hopes to go back to school and further her studies when her community has a school of its own.

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