COWDRAY PARK’S WATER CRISIS ENDANGERING THE LIVES OF WOMEN AND GIRLS

By Mthabisi Onias Ndlovu

The Hlalani kuhle area, one of the new residential stands in Cowdray Park, which started around 2006, is still short of water taps. At the moment it has only eight community taps installed by the city council.

However, according to some residents, only five of the taps are currently working in the area, whilst the other 3 have no pressure since they are located in highland areas.

The three taps on high ground have no pressure almost every time,” said one female resident in the affected area who is also a mother of three, her name withheld. “Sometimes they do have a bit of pressure which allows people to fetch water around 10pm to about 4am in the morning.”

“This is really a problem because it’s the women and girls that suffer the most,” she added. “Not to say that boys don’t fetch water but women do most of the work.”

As a result, this has forced women and girls, as young as grade six, in Hlalani Kuhle areas to walk long distances to other sections in the late hours to fetch water for household chores while carrying babies on their backs, risking being attacked and raped at night.

“At one point a young girl was attacked by young boys asking her to return a favour after helping her to jump the queue to the front to get water fast.”

Another female resident, Nomthandazo Ncube (22) said, “It’s really hard especially when you have a small child and at the same time you have home chores like washing, cooking and I have to walk that distance to get water for washing. It’s even worse where it concerns issues to do with women’s reproductive health.”

Some of the girls refused to comment on the issue saying they where afraid to talk to the media about such a topic.

According to some residents, the area currently has no police base yet. While all these incidents are happening, the area lacks police protection thereby allowing criminal activities.

Hlalani kuhle area at the moment reports to the Cowdry police base near Mkhithika turn.

This has not been the only area where a water crisis has been seen endangering the lives of women, children and other men to falling victims.

In a statement given by the Gwanda Residents Association this week, “some women in Gwanda were lay held by a thug who raped them on their way to fetch potentially dangerous water from a disused mine shaft.”

In trying to solve the water problem in the Hlalani Kuhle area, the city council attempted to install prepaid water meters, a move which was largely resisted by residents in various areas of Bulawayo through a demonstration which was held last week at the municipal offices at the large city hall. The act was viewed by residents as a violation of human rights in section 77 sub-section (a) on access to water.

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association also described the council’s solution of prepaid water meters as a regression of women’s gains in gender equality during a press statement last week.

One resident disclosed that at one point, the world vision organisation approached the Council of the area, councillor Collet Ndlovu seeking permission to help bring water to some sections of Hlalani kuhle which belong to the disabled. However the councillor is said to have turned down the offer saying they should rather put blair toilets.

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