Shortage of water is a triple burden for me
I had to care for my parents, attend my class, and carry l00 Liters of water every day.
Genet Zewudie (22) is a girl who lives in Yelem Gej community. She is an 11th-grade student attending in Yelem Gej high school. Genet is the last child in her family. She is responsible to care for her old-age parents, a 76-year-old father and 65 years old mother.
“I used to be a clever student till I reached grade 7 or grade 8. But later on, when the domestic responsibility increased, my performance in the class started to decrease,” recalls Genet.
Genet used to fetch water from hand-dug well far from her home. She was the only responsible person. She used to fetch 4-5 jerrycans of water every day. On Fridays, she used to fetch up to 12 jerrycans per day. Fetching that much water every day was difficult for her. Since she was the only person to fetch water, she was a latecomer in school and usually, absent at least during the first period.
“It was so common, especially on Fridays, to be absent or late to school. I used to run most of the time not to be late for school. That in turn made me tired and sweat especially in the afternoon class. That made me not follow my class attentively”.
“In addition, I was not able to wash my clothes including my uniform. I used to wash my parent’s clothes by going to other kebeles (sub-district). This was due to a shortage of water. I used to go to school without cooking and eating breakfast since I needed the time to fetch water. I used to take a bath once a month before, but now I take a bath weekly.”
Genet also explains the sanitation and hygiene problem related to water.
“Since there was a shortage of water, I and my school friends didn’t wash our sanitary pads with soap. My siblings who live in cities didn’t drink water when they come to visit us.”
In order to save time, she has been carrying 40 jerry cans of water (40 liters) once. She had a bad experience with this. Once before the Yelem Gej water scheme was constructed, she fell on the ground carrying 40 liters (2 jerrycans) of water, and her leg was injured. This happened because she was in a hurry to save time and carried more than her capacity.
“On average I used to take 3 hours per day to fetch water. In addition, fetching from a hand-dug well was very difficult and tiresome. My education performance in school also dropped.”
Thanks to the Yelem Gej rural drinking water system, Genet and her household have now a waterpoint in their compound. This gave her relief and more time for her class. Just like Genet, the project has resolved a lot of multidimensional problems faced by other schoolgirls.
“Even though I have a lot of domestic work since I am caring for my old parents, I am free of the stress related to fetching water and water shortage. I don’t think about fetching water while I am attending my class. Also, I have a plan to improve my class rank and record a very good result in the national exam.”
Last year, though it is difficult to measure due to Covid-19 pandemic, Genet is one of the first 3 or 4 best performing female students in her class.
Recognizing the need of the community and the burden it imposed on the public in general and on schoolgirls, UNICEF, with the generous contribution from Les Mills and the New Zealand National committee for UNICEF, worked together with the Amhara regional water bureau, East Gojjam zone water department, Basoliben water office and with the community to construct a new water scheme called Yelem Gej Rural drinking water supply system. Currently, Yelem Gej rural drinking water supply system is serving an estimated 10,000 population through 8 communal water points and 180 household water points. All three public institutions in the community (2 schools and 1 health centre) have access to water.
The water scheme is managed through a WASH committee and managing the water scheme provides employment to 16 workforces. The committee is strong, and they have saved more than 780, 000 ETB (US$14,700) which empowers them to cover the costs of rehabilitation or other expenses when needed.
Currently, the system is working through a diesel generator. They are waiting and asking for an electrical grid connection. The cost of diesel makes the cost of water higher as diesel is more costly than other energy sources in the area and it also must be transported from urban areas.