April 11th, 2012
I have been really lucky until now when it comes to my water situation. Swaziland has a water service and each homestead can have a meter and tap installed so they don’t have to fetch water. My homestead does have a tap fortunately as well as a Jojo tank (very large, green container) used to collect rainwater. However, we have a broken pipe between our water meter and our tap. When the tap is turned on half of the water leaks out before it gets to the tap and we still get charged by the water service for it. For months we have only been turning the tap on every once in a while, and have been using collected rainwater instead. To avoid large fees my host family has now decided to not use the tap on the homestead until it gets fixed. The water service says the family is responsible to buy the new pipe and then they will replace it. The new pipe cost E2000 (that’s a lot). Since it hasn’t rained here for a long time, the rainwater collection is now low.
So I find myself in the unpleasant situation of having to really fetch my water. Compared to America I have always had to fetch my water, meaning filling up a bucket everyday and hauling it to my house. But now I’m really fetching my water. I take my two 25 liter barrels and haul them in a wheel barrel through the African bush (literally through the bush, I have gotten lost every time I have gone) to our water meter. It only takes 15 minutes to walk to but the whole process takes about an hour. And hauling 50 liters of water back on uneven ground, dodging thorny branches, while trying to keep your wheel barrel balanced, is quite challenging.
My host Make and I have been fetching water together this week and she has vowed to get it fixed soon. She worked really hard to not get stuck living as a servant to tasks Swazi women traditionally are burdened by. Today she told me how she escaped.
When she was my age she was walking everyday long distances to fetch water, several times a day, with a baby on her back, one on the way, and two small ones at home. She was living at her in-laws, like a Swazi wife traditional does, while Babe (host dad) worked in town. One day she decided this was not the life she wanted. She didn’t want to get stuck doing the same thing everyday, not being able to do anything else. The next time Babe was home she told him she was going with him, she wasn’t going to live at the homestead anymore as was culturally expected. Babe warned that the homestead would be angry at her, but permitted her to go. Without a word to anyone else, she took her youngest daughter and went to live in Manzini (urban town) and “started her life.” She got a job and spent her lunch hour learning to sew (is now her source of income). After two years she went back and collected her two oldest daughters and raised all four of them in Manzini. She worked to send them to good schools so they could have opportunities and not get stuck at the homestead like she almost did. She raised them “on love” and has proved that even a Swazi women has the power to change her life if she really wants to.