Feature: Kenya's endemic water stress derails efforts to empower women

Source: Xinhua| 2020-11-14 21:13:19|Editor: huaxia

NAIROBI, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- In the expansive Kenya's Rift Valley region, water scarcity has undermined national efforts to empower women economically and attain gender parity.

Margaret Yeben, a businesswoman and resident of Baringo County located about 252 km northwest of the capital Nairobi, spends about three hours per day looking for the commodity.

With less time in her retail shop, set up in a shared space in their family house, her business of selling small portions of household essentials such as sugar, salt and soap, earns her less profit.

"On most occasions, I open the shop after 10 a.m. when I have returned from Lake Baringo where we collect the water. That costs me morning customers," said Yeben who is the shop's sole manager.

"Profits decline by 100 shillings (about 0.92 U.S. dollars) to 3 dollars when the shop is closed in the morning hours," she added.

Yeben, however, prefers fetching water in the morning as this allows her to fully concentrate on her business once she opens.

"If we had water nearby, we would be more worried about how to sell as much merchandise as possible in Marigat (a nearby town center) than be troubled over the distance we have to walk to get water," said Yeben.

"We do not have donkeys to carry the water. We carry it on our heads. It is tiresome. When you reach home, you just want to rest," she added.

Hellen Nabori, a resident of Baringo County is able to connect with Yeben's predicaments.

She runs a grocery store at Marigat town and her daily routine is even more complicated, slicing up her time from generating an impressive income.

Nabori's day starts at 4 a.m. and ends at midnight. Her list of tasks includes collecting a fresh supply of vegetables from wholesalers, packaging them for the customers, preparing meals for her family, going to the market to sell the vegetables and trekking to the nearest water pan to fetch the precious liquid.

Unlike Yeben, she prefers going for the water in the afternoon as it is convenient for her. However, that eats into her business hours at the market.

"I do not make as much profits as women who are at the market from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.," said Nabori who started the business early this year.

"I have to close my business by 4 p.m. to be able to make it to a water pan near Lake Baringo early enough before sunset. If I do not fetch water, I have to buy a 20-liter jerrican for less than about 0.2 dollars and that is a lot of money for me," she added.

The UN Women hinges empowerment of female gender on access to water, a factor which it identifies as an enabler to boosting their economic productivity, hence promoting their progressive development.

Enock Keston, Baringo's County executive for Water and Irrigation said that access to water is a key catalyst for women's empowerment.

Keston said that by 2022, the county government hopes to have completed at least 300 earmarked water projects that would be established in areas less than 500 meters from homesteads.

The projects include dams, waterpans and boreholes that he said the county is engaging various partners in efforts to secure resources to complete. Enditem