Academic journal article Rural Society

Building Rain Water Tanks and Building Skills: A Case Study of a Women's Organization in Uganda

Academic journal article Rural Society

Building Rain Water Tanks and Building Skills: A Case Study of a Women's Organization in Uganda

Article excerpt


For many in developed nations, piped water is considered a right, and investments are made to insure its access. However, for the majority of the developing world, water acquisition is a time-consuming process left primarily to women and children (WEHAB, 2002; Hyder et al., 2005). This fact creates a range of social and economic implications as water collection can take up to two hours a day drawing time from other activities including income generation and education. As an activity with very high energy demand, water collection can put a strain on limited calorie diets. Cultural beliefs in East Africa maintain that female children will be future care-takers of the home (Hyder et al., 2005). Male children are therefore often provided an education over females leaving tasks like water collection to girls.

Compounded by lack of education and insufficient skills, rural Ugandan women face a spectrum of challenges due to limited incomes. A disproportionate percentage of rural women are left to earn income through the informal sector. This leaves many women supporting families on less than one US dollar a day, an indicator of extreme poverty (UN, 2005). Such levels of poverty are frequently accompanied by poor health due to lack of access to water and sanitation education.

Studies indicate that engaging women in water and sanitation projects not only improves personal health, but also improves the health of their family. Training women can help reduce the spread of diarrheal diseases by educating other family members on best practices (Elmendorf, 1982). Better health practices such as the use of oral rehydration after diarrhea and immunizations also have higher rates of implementation by women involved in water projects (Yacoob, 1991) The formation of women's groups is a common method for delivery of information and increase of personal capital in rural Uganda (Pickering et al., 1996). Such groups can serve as a point of intervention for improving the health of a community through the implementation of water projects.

Katosi Women Development Trust (KWDT) is a non-governmental organization working with communities in Ntenjeru and Nakisunga sub-counties of Mukono district, Uganda (Map 1). The organization engages women members in a range of activities from agriculture and economic development to water and sanitation issues. As a part of the organization's mission to improve the health and economic standing on the women, members were selected to be trained in masonry for the construction of rain water collection tanks. This project was intended not only to improve the income of trained members, but also improve the health of the community by increasing access to clean water. A case study was carried out on the organization and its masons to observe the benefits and challenges associated with the rain water tank construction program.

Background: Uganda's water and sanitation status

Established in 2000, the UN Millennium Development Goals serve as a set of objectives and indicators to improve global development. One goal is to 'Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation,' (UN, 2005). The goal encompasses the issue of increased access to water not only for consumption but for maintenance of proper sanitation. Access to sufficient amounts of water has a greater impact on the reduction of diarrhea than improved quality of water (Gorter et al. 1991; Knight et al., 1992). Issues of improved sanitation must therefore incorporate a focus on creating water sources closer to the home (Aziz et al., 1990; Esrey et al., 1991; Lewin 1997).

Though an individual's water requirements depend on environment, health, and level of physical labor, the minimum amount required for maintaining proper health falls between 15 and 20 liters (Arbelot, 1994). This estimate includes water for consumption, cooking, washing clothes, bathing, and cleaning one's environment. …

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