Lack of water is a stumbling block to gender equality in Zimbabwe

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A 10 mega litre tank constructed under the first phase of the ZimFund project in Mutare. The tank has a capacity to supply water to 100 000 people.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Water, Environment and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri has decried lack of sufficient clean water as a stumbling block to achieving gender equality. She said girls were often forced to miss school because of searching for the precious liquid.

“At home we have our young girls and mothers who walk for hours every day to fetch water for their families, unfortunately there is no economic value attached to this job and often times gender equality is compromised. Girls miss school searching for water and chances of them failing in school are very high; this is unacceptable,” she noted.

Muchinguri made the remarks during  World Water Day held on March 22, 2016. This year’s theme, “Water and Jobs”, the minister said, highlighted the power that water and jobs have in transforming people’s lives.

The African Development Bank attended the event as it is a key development partner supporting Zimbabwe’s water sector.

The Bank recently approved US $33 million to improve clean water access in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city. The Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP) seeks to boost municipal water supply and sanitation services, thereby contributing to improved health and social wellbeing of the population.

This comes at a time when ZimFund Phase I project, implemented in six cities in the country, has just been completed and Phase II projects have commenced. The ZimFund is administered by the AfDB, and its donors have to date contributed around US $145 million towards water and power projects in the country.

Zimbabwe commemorated World Water Day in the face of a severe El Nino induced drought that has seen main water levels significantly dropping below 50% in the country’s water storage reservoirs. This, experts say is a threat to food security, energy supply and livelihood. The country recently declared the situation a National Disaster, appealing to the international community for assistance of up to US $1.5 billion.

Muchinguri also pointed out that in order to reduce food production costs and thereby enhance food security, the government reduced by about 40% raw water tariffs for all farmer categories for irrigation purposes.

“I expect this reduction to trigger a surge in the demand for raw water as more and more farmers turn to irrigation agriculture to counter the negative impacts of rain fed agriculture as a result of climate change”, she said.