Women and Water: Tibka’s Story
When it comes to women and water in Ethiopia, the burden is heavy. When there is no safe water, women endure physical danger and strain while fetching water over long distances, coping with chronic water-borne illness, missing school, and spending many days caring for sick family members. When safe water is nearby, we see women prosper.
Women and Water: Tibka’s Journey to Overcome Water Poverty
Tibka, a slender Ethiopian woman in her mid-20s, sits on a stool outside a tiny, dark room she has rented in the rural town of Dodola. She patiently wraps long strips of plastic from old sacks around straw bundles, deftly binding the colorfully wrapped straw into a wide serving tray for injera, the local bread. She is surrounded by evidence of her handiwork — brightly colored, elegantly shaped baskets, traditional serving trays, and low woven serving tables. She has clearly mastered her craft.
Tibka is also enrolled in university, which means she is intelligent and has persevered against many odds. She dreams of becoming a veterinarian, and she is well on her way to making that dream a reality.
Tibka grew up in a town without a source of clean water. As young as four years old, she — like all of the girls in her town – spent many hours every day with a large clay pot strapped to her back, collecting water from a contaminated river. Fortunately, when she was ten years old the town installed a water system with hand pumps distributed every few kilometers. That single change allowed Tibka’s opportunities to blossom. She was able to attend primary school, then high school, and was eventually accepted into the animal health program at the local university.
At present, Tibka’s only concern is to finish her studies. She lifts the lid of one of her enormous baskets to reveal a pile of well-worn school books.
“See, I am making these things to pay for this room and college. I am fortunate to have learned an income-producing trade from my mother. I sell my goods in the market, and often people come to me with orders for wedding gifts. Right now I have no extra money to save. If I can cover all my expenses, I consider that a success.”
Tibka Presses On to Reach Her Dreams
While she works nonstop in extremely humble conditions, Tibka is thankful for her circumstances. “First, I am generating income for my life. I do not have to depend on others. Second, I am studying. It is another means of life for my future.”
Tibka acknowledges that her ability to support herself and study for a better future depends on access to clean water. “I am doing both of these things because I have time,” She says. “If I were fetching water, I could not attend school, let alone help myself with this income.”
Little by little, clean water plus ambition and hard work are bringing Tibka closer to her dream of becoming a veterinarian.