Women Driving Change

For water services to be sustainable, local leadership is key. Without it, communities like Ntayba in Rulindo District, Rwanda wouldn’t be able to count on water that would flow for generations to come.

Before August 2016, the only water the community members in Ntayba knew was more than an hour away, and it was from an unprotected source. When their new community tap stand was completed as part of a new piped water system, life changed completely.

“Having water nearby our homes has helped us so much,” says Marie Claire Mukayiranga, the president of Ntyaba’s water users’ committee. “We used to spend about one and a half hours traveling to fetch water from an unprotected source and fetched at least twice a day.”

Marie was voted president of the water users’ committee by the community members, and she says she couldn’t betray the trust they placed in her.

“The committee is very important, because it is hard to convince people about new practices,” Marie says. As the president, Marie promotes behavior change and sensitizes community members about water usage practices – such as cleaning and maintaining the water point, practicing good hygiene, and why it is important to clean water containers and boil drinking water.

To make sure there are sufficient funds to maintain and eventually replace the water point, the committee also educates the community about the importance of paying tariffs for water service. “Through the committee, the people take the water point as their own and now know the importance of paying for water services,” Marie says. “They know as they pay, they are also contributing to the maintenance of the water point.”

Committees like the one Marie leads are so important for sustainable water services that Water For People won’t consider its work in a district complete unless committees like Marie’s support the provision of water services. They are critical partners in promoting behavior change and overseeing tariff collection, water quality, and maintenance and repairs.

Marie says her own life has improved significantly since the water point was completed. She raises livestock, and when she had to spend hours each day fetching water she didn’t have time to care for the animals. Sometimes she would have to pay someone to fetch her water so she could take care of her daily responsibilities. “Now we only pay RWF 20 (.024 USD) per jerrycan, and I have enough time to care for the cows I have at home and do other household chores.”

Before, Marie’s two children also had to help her fetch water before school, which often made them late. “Now they get to school on time and they have time to focus on their studies,” she says. Throughout the entire community, Marie says school absences have been reduced. Health and hygiene have also improved, as families finally have sufficient water to drink, cook, bathe, and clean.

“We hope for a very clean community, developed, and with well-educated children,” she says.

With leadership like Marie’s, water services will be around for the long term in Ntayba, guaranteeing the community will always benefit from better health, education, and quality of life.

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