Transforming Lives: Organised Women Striving to Achieve Access to Adequate Sanitation and Hygiene

by James Tayler

In a small village, called Mmadinare in the central district of Botswana with around 13 000 inhabitants, hails Rekopane savings group in Kelele ward, with a membership of 80 organised women who’ve decided to take matters into their own hands and build a toilet for their fellow women in thecommunity.

In a remarkable display of empowerment and compassion, Rekopane savings group has undertaken themomentous task of constructing a toilet for less privileged fellow women in the village. This initiative aims to address the lack of sanitation facilities faced by marginalised communities, especially women, to ensure their dignity, health, and well-being.

During their 7th Anniversary Celebration, held on the 16th September 2023, the National federation leader Keletso Dambe gave a very remarkable speech citing issues of KYC (Know Your City) – which loosely translates as “Itse Ha o nnang teng’’ in Setswana. She further gave words of encouragement to have compassion for the elderly, and the needy within the village. The project was birthed by inspiration from Keletso Dambe’s speech which drove the group to identify a less privileged women who needed proper sanitation. The whole thing turned the group to the remembrance of the SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation – oriented target stating that by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and to end open defecation, paying attention to the needs of women and girls in vulnerablesituations.

The pivotal role that Rekopane women are playing in driving change through their collective effort began on 15thOctober 2023 when they undertook a ground breaking for the construction of a toilet. It is now evident that through motivation, dedication, and empowerment, they challenged traditional gender roles and took charge in a traditionally male-dominated field. As women they have undertaken the toilet construction by themselves with no prior experience, the women have worked tirelessly in the scorching sun: digging holes, mixing cement and laying bricks. Their hands were calloused, but their spirits remained unbroken.

The project is to be completed to the value of P5100.00 funded through monetary gifts during their 7th Anniversary celebration and pledges made by each women in the savings group, in the form of materials like bricks, bags of cement, corrugated iron sheets and timber.

The women who embarked on building the toilet felt a great sense of satisfaction. Ultimately, their work has paidoff and now Ms Reddy Phiri has access to proper sanitation facility. All of it was accomplished with the collective effort of a group of determined women who never gave up. It’s a remarkable sight to see – a toilet built entirely by women, with nothing but their hard work and dedication.

By building toilets for the less privileged, organised women are not just constructing infrastructure; they are empowering communities, improving health, and breaking the cycle of poverty. Through their dedicated efforts, they have become agents of change, demonstrating the power of collective action and women’s leadership. Their inspiring journey serves as a reminder that when women unite and take matters into their own hands, they can transform the world for the better.