Female mechanic in northern Nigeria changes the gender narrative, while serving her community
Societal expectations didn’t deter Sylvia Clement from becoming a borehole mechanic in Kaduna State
Sylvia, a mother of five, sacrificed one month of work and income from her farm to learn the skills needed to help people have sustained access to drinkable water.
"I felt the communities here needed women as mechanics to take care of these projects, because we know more about the fetching and use of water. A woman understands better why the pump must always work ," she said.
UNICEF, the Kaduna State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency and the UK Government worked together to fund a project to train 264 local area mechanics who would be able to ensure sustained access to quality water by communities in 22 of Kaduna State’s 23 local government areas (LGAs).
The need for the project became clear when boreholes funded by donors in the State collapsed and were abandoned after only a few months of use because of a lack of maintenance. In just eight months, Sylvia managed to restore more than ten boreholes back to life in Kujama Ward.
"It was not easy for me because it is seen as a man's job, but I knew I could do it and make an impact in my community,” she said.
Moses Micah, WASH Committee Secretary in Ugwan Mission community, Chikun LGA, called Sylvia the best thing that has happened to their community. “Our borehole no longer has to wait for days when there is problem,” he said.
Sylvia derives joy from being able to restore safe drinking water to the communities in her State - and reduce the stress that women especially face, when they have to travel far in search of water for their families. But thanks to her new salary, Sylvia's economic power also increased - meaning she can better support her family financially.
"I will forever be grateful to UNICEF, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) and RUWASSA, for giving me this opportunity not only to serve my people but to also provide me with a source of livelihood,"said Sylvia.
Florence Manshop, the Coordinator of WASH in Chikun LGA, said Sylvia is very committed to her work and always ready to learn more. And while the mechanics were trained under a specific project, their work is not limited to their facilities, as they also repair boreholes funded by other donors – increasing the benefits to their communities.
"We have two female mechanics amongst the 12 we trained in this LGA,” she said. “I can see them reaching higher levels because of their timely response in repairing boreholes, quality of work and experience as mechanics.”