Along with our partners from REDEP and AMEFS Eng. Ltd., we decided that teaching women how to maintain their village pumps might give them the confidence and status to be more forceful in community water issues. In effect, they would become the village water experts to go along with their traditional responsibilities for the family water supply. This has been tried in other countries with some success, so we developed a program to use in the District. We included an emphasis on the health aspects of using clean water and we wanted the women to carry that message back to their villages as well.
Our training program for pump caretakers started in October 2013 when each village where we had repaired pumps selected 2 women to participate in a 3-day workshop on hand pump repair and maintenance. This type of training is usually given only to to men and is completed in less than one day. However, we used the extra time to give the women hands-on experience in pump repair. That included dismantling and reassembling pumps and removing and installing the piping from boreholes. At first the women were concerned that working on pumps was "man's work" and were reluctant to do it, but one of the older women loudly exclaimed that "we can do it," and they did.
A series of photos from the training sessions are shown here, starting with classroom instruction;
followed by learning to use tools and take pumps apart;
lifting pipes and rods from the well,
and finally, a graduation picture before the trainees return to their home villages with a tool kit to maintain their village pump.
A part of our program, that we do not believe has been used extensively elsewhere, is that we continue to support the women we trained through regular quarterly visits to the villages. It takes up to 6 full days to visit all the villages, so 4 village tours every year is a major effort. However, we think the tours are necessary for the program to be successful. The tours are used to give refresher training and generally enhance the status of the women we trained by showing their importance to the communities. REDEP staff go on all the tours, and AMEFS Eng. Ltd. personal accompany them on alternate tours.
On all the tours we follow a checklist of observations and questions that help us identify changes in attitudes toward paying for water, saving for pump repairs, health, and other issues. We also conduct informal interviews on the same topics. As a result, we are gathering a record of how the program is working and what additional components are needed to make it even more effective.
As reported in our newsletters, there have been changes in attitudes in most of the communities and many of the women we trained are trying to lead the way to assuring that their village pumps will continue to operate. The women are maintaining the pumps and helping set the rules about their use and there is also more awareness of the importance of good water to health than we have seen before the program was introduced. They also continuously remind people of the need to save for future repairs and that effort is showing significant progress as savings accounts are growing.
On one of the tours a village pump needed to be repaired, so the AMEFS Eng technicians let the trainees make the repairs themselves. The interest in the work shown by the other women in the pictures is an encouraging sign of progress in building awareness and confidence that they can also contribute to managing their community water supply.
We also find that people like having the trained women in the villages for their knowledge of pump repair. Many of the villages have paid to have pumps repaired only to have them break down again because the replacement parts were defective and the work was poorly done. The trained women know when a pump starts to develop a problem and where to go for reliable help.
People in the villages also appreciate our regular visits and want them to continue. The visits also help us to learn about the communities and their leaders, and gain the trust of the people. In turn, that allows REDEP to learn when conflicts about water issues arise and help negotiate solutions.
We will continue the visits and training workshops into the future as more villages are brought into our program.