I woke up one cold Zimbabwean June morning, preparing to boil my water for a bath. It was then I discovered that there was no electricity! It was a blackout, one which was unannounced by ZESA, our energy provider. Annoyed and mumbling to myself, I cursed everything around me. As I opened my small curtain in need of nature’s light; something I spotted was both disturbing and angering.
It was my beautiful neighbour’s wife who was making a fire in that chilling cold morning preparing for her husband who was probably snoring in his warm blankets. The wife wanted to boil water not only cooking tea but also for her partner. As I saw her cough, choked by smoke I thought to myself with regret. It is the woman who suffers when the city fathers decide to close down water in the so-called water rationing exercise. It is she that must go around looking for the lifesaving liquid. I have seen in more than one occasion seen a woman burned with a 20 litres bucket on her head and a whining baby at her back.
Women seem to suffer more directly when services are poor in a community.
Speaking to a Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) researcher Joyce Nyamukunda; she confirmed my suspicions.
“When we talk about the roads, about the clinics and the schools; it’s mainly women who bear this impact when these services are not really available in these communities,” Joyce Nyamukunda said.
Women in rural areas have to travel for long distances by foot for registration documents, for firewood; for clinics when family members are sick and even when giving birth.
That’s what happens when services are poor and not nearer to the communities they serve. I am reminded of the complaints of the former Minister of Women Affairs, Nyasha Chikwinya;
“The situation in Zimbabwe is very critical, 80 per cent of women live in rural areas and they need firewood for cooking. Of late it’s not just the rural areas and the urban setup,” she said.
According to the Gender Minister, urban women resolve to firewood due to the high cost of electricity. As a result, my neighbour’s wife walks 3-4km to get this firewood in Harare. The saddest part of this story is that there are thousands of Zimbabwean women, rural or urbane who are at the mercy of poor service delivery often offered by males.
The question is what can be done promptly to alleviate it?