By SHARON BHAGWAN ROLLS
20 June 2013. Nadi, Fiji Islands. “I wake up at 5 o’clock, filled the water from the well and bring it in the afternoon then we put it in our house. I wake up at 5am to cook for my children then they have to bath and go to work. We have to fill two drums one for cooking and one for washing our clothes and then we clean our house but we will need 2 or 3 drums of water every day,” relates 54 year old Rumbha Wati who is originally from Wainikoro in Labasa. She and her family relocated from Vanua Levu to Malamala just under a year ago in order to secure employment and never expected to be living a life without water.
45 year old Vina Tuse’s son who has secured a job in town is now renting accommodation away from the community because of the poor water supply but Vina still has to ensure, with her husband and children’s help that water is available daily for the remaining members of the family including 3 who are still at school: “I have to run down to the river to fetch water to do my housework and also to carry water back home. I have to wake up very early sometimes at 5 or 6 o’clock to fetch water and to start the first cooking in the morning. I have to carry bucket and a 20 gallon drum from the river to the home especially to do my first cooking in the morning and especially when my kids were young and it’s quite hard to look after them because the water . The washing of their clothes and I have to wake up early in order to send them to school. So I make sure the water is already at home so I have to carry bucket to have them ready at home for their morning bath.”
To collect drinking water requires another strategy: “It’s a about 1 kilometre to fetch drinking water from the well from my neighbour. I have to carry 2 gallons plus the bucket to carry drinking water home.”
The Malamala Community and Loqi settlement (of Bavu Village) is 15 kilometres out of Nadi town where 18 women aged 20 – 66 years are calling for urgent assistance for the development of water projects to including the necessary surveys and water quality tests so that the daily burden all of these women have experienced throughout their married life of collecting water from creeks and wells for cooking and washing and the indignity of bathing in the creek can all be put behind them. The current population of the two settlements is estimated to be close to 3000 and water requirements will soon increase over a 6 month period with the arrival of the harvesting gangs in 2 weeks time.
In this community women carry water to and from various sources, including Maya Wati who lives with her aging husband.
It is water poverty one woman says. Explaining that without water they cannot grow vegetable gardens or rear livestock like chickens and goats to supplement their income.
“Yes the older women in our community share the same problem before, and they are all gone now and we are starting with the new generation now and we are all going through the same problem,” reflects Vina.
“Women’s Water Woes” is an interview (conducted 19 June) that will feature during FemLINKPACIFIC’s “suitcase radio” broadcast at McDonalds Nadi from 9am to 3pm on Friday 21 June, but this is not the first time we have featured the lack of water in this community.
Since 2010 this has been a regular plea on the community radio broadcasts and interactive dialogue sessions with government officials, of Mohini Lata who catches the 630am bus which meanders through the Nawaicoba back road to attend FemLINKPACIFIC’s community media network activities in town but there has been no traction upstream.
But the water woes have not been just a matter of the last 12 years, for Mohini and other women in the community it has been a lifetime of marriage, having babies, experiencing their monthly periods, disruptions to their daily lives, their religious rituals.
But each woman ensures they are providing water for their families no matter how far and how much they have to carry buckets and drums of water home: “I never stop my kids from drinking whenever they want to drink I let them drink because I know it is my responsibility to get water from them,” says Timaima Ralololuka who has spent the last 4 years making submissions for a water project for the Loqi settlement, where women like Vina Tuse worry every time her young daughter has to go to the creek alone: “Yes I do worry about her because now everything is different. Just to go and wash clothes alone and us mothers worry about them because they are growing up. So we want water at home so everything is easy for her. I have water supply I will be bathing at home with my family and I would have made a bathroom near my house my septic tank toilets.”
The 18 women have rallied together and hope that they can collectively bring about the change for the betterment of not only household but all the families in their community.
“We want water first because it is the main thing for our families because we are using water every day and every time,” says Vina
FemLINKPACIFIC Rural Community Media Network is supported by the European Union and International Women’s Development Agency.