Wet and tiring. This is what the gb connect team that traveled to Tanzania in July 2017 learned first-hand. Hoping to better understand what it's like for people there to source water and how globalbike can better support them, we thought we could give families a day off from carrying water.
We were fortunate that Enaboishu, a Maasai women's cooperative and partner with globalbike, was willing to teach us and humor us as we attempted to carry water for them. The event enabled us to learn more about Enaboishu's needs for bicycles and provided an opportunity for shared experience that transcended language and cultural difference.
During our afternoon at Enaboishu, we paired each gb connect participant with a woman from Enaboishu to lead them to their home. The women showed us how to fill buckets at the local community pump, how to wrap a kanga (a local cloth worn by women) in a disc and place it on our heads for cushioning, and finally how to place the bucket of water on our heads and walk carefully home.
Many of the bucket lids did not seal completely, so unless you had a keen sense of balance, the water spilt onto you as you walked. The load was so heavy it required most of us, unlike the women at Enaboishu, to use our hands to steady the bucket.
Once we had delivered water to the nearby homes, the women insisted that we stop carrying buckets, even though more buckets remained by the pump. They reluctantly explained that the leftover buckets would require transportation up to a 30-minute walk away. The women refused to allow us to do this work for them. Discussions ensued that allowed us to learn more from the women about water transportation in their village.
Mikocheni is a unique environment because the soil there has a high salt content. Enaboishu's bike program currently rents out 20 bicycles, and they are scheduled to receive more bikes when construction of their rental and repair shop is complete. To date, they and their bike rental customers have primarily used the bicycles for transporting goods. They have been reluctant to use those bicycles for water transportation in the event that the salty soil causes the bicycles to rust. The alternative has been for women to continue carrying water one bucket at a time on foot.
We shared the women's concerns with Juma, a bike mechanic and mechanic trainer who works with globalbike. He discussed ways that they could care for the bikes to prevent rusting. In September of this year, 6 women from Enaboishu began practicing those skills in a bike mechanic training provided by globalbike, where Juma is teaching them to repair and maintain their bicycles. This training is enabling Enaboishu to care for their bicycles independently and prevent rusting when they use the bicycles to source water.
gb connect's visit to Enaboishu created new friendships and embodied how globalbike partners and works with women's groups in Tanzania. We learn and work together. We create authentic relationships that transcend cultural and economic differences. And we value the knowledge and skills of everyone involved.