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the Hand Pump Mechanic

On any given day, as she sees her kids off to school or prepares food for her family, Maureen could get a call from a community in her region. She’d drop everything in that moment, grab her tools, and head off on her bicycle.

Maureen is a hand pump mechanic – and the first female one in the entire district of Chikwawa, Malawi.

"When I started this work, most people thought I could not manage," shares Maureen. "But I have always believed in myself and wanted to take a bigger role on water issues in my community."

A training Maureen attended about human rights and gender solidified the idea for her that women can do things that society views as only done by men – like being a hand pump mechanic. So when the opportunity came up last year, Maureen attended a hand pump mechanic training facilitated by Water For People and the Chikwawa District Council. Of the 10 mechanics being trained, she was the only woman.

"I thought this was an opportunity to make sure that people have safe, clean water at all times," says Maureen.

To date, Maureen has repaired 13 boreholes in surrounding communities. She knows her job is vital to making sure communities have water that keeps flowing, which is why she drops everything to repair handpumps as soon as she possibly can. Maureen remembers what life was like before her own community received water – women walked long distances to fetch water, and a lack of water and hygiene led to cholera and diarrhea. She’s proud to be doing her part to keep those things from happening again.

Despite her pride in her new role, it has been difficult for Maureen to be accepted as a female pump mechanic.

"It is challenging because people are used to seeing men do this job, so it’s not easy to get accepted as a female pump mechanic," Maureen explains. "At first the whole community would come to watch while I fixed water points. They would interrogate me, questioning my ability to fix the borehole."

Maureen has persevered, and although people still have their doubts, Maureen is resolute in her determination to involve more women in the issue of water.

"Having women do this work is very vital," she shares. "It brings more ownership. Women are more concerned with water and more connected to it."

Being a pump mechanic is just Maureen’s initial step. She hopes to someday become a water technician or water monitoring assistant in the District Water and Sanitation Office. With her determination and grit, anything is possible.