Water is an Issue of Gender

A Story from Dowa, Malawi

woman carrying water malawi
A woman in TA Chakhadza carries water to her home

One Tuesday in 2019 remains an unforgettable day in Malita Chimbalame’s life. 

“It took me so long to return home from drawing water that my husband locked me out of the house,” says Malita. 

Aged 42, Malita left home to draw water from her usual source, Katayamphasa River. Because of the dry season, this process took almost 5 hours. 

“The wells along the river could go dry after filling only two or three buckets,” explains Malita. “We had to wait in line for the groundwater to refill the well.

“On this day I left home at 6 am. I had no option but to wait. My turn finally came. I was happy to go back home with water. I got back at 11 am.”

Despite her achievement, she found her husband furious.

Malita’s situation mirrors those of many other women in rural areas.

The inability to meet household obligations due to water inaccessibility makes women vulnerable to intimate partner violence. 

Water insecurity remains a challenge in Malawi. Women and girls bear the brunt of the situation. To make matters worse, women and girls are subject to gender based violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse. Walking in pre-dawn hours to gather water puts women and girls at risk of attack. 

Orant Charities Africa’s Country Director Gabriel Kapanda says,

“Most girls and women in rural areas struggle to safely obtain water. Our WASH program drills boreholes as a way of making sure that women and girls are well-protected.”

So far, Orant has drilled about 60 boreholes in T/A Chakhaza. In addition, we repair over 100 wells a year. 

“I am so glad for the gift of water that Orant has brought to my community,” says Yosofina Kaseleta from Mzimuwakana Village. “Not so long ago, we had high numbers of young girls dropping out of school. But they have now returned to school.”

Yosofina explains how water insecurity causes many girls to drop out of school. They find it hard to fetch water to care for themselves during menses. 

The new boreholes in Yosofina’s village and surrounding areas lessened the issue of gender-based violence in homes. It also afforded women time to rest. And time to invest in other important things. 

For more stories on Water & Sanitation in Malawi, visit here.

The Orant Journal