Rwandan Women Making a Difference At Water Treatment Plant

Photo: AfDB
Florence Ntibazakwirwa
19 September 2019
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)

About 30 minutes' drive outside Kigali, the tidy capital of Rwanda, past lush forests, marshland and makeshift roadside stores advertising their offerings on hand-painted signs, a group of women are quietly making history.

On a construction site next to the Nyabarongo River, the women are hard at work on a water treatment plant that will change the destiny of the country, as well as their own.

Florence Ntibazakwirwa spends several hours a day bending steel to precise angles, after which the metal is used to reinforce the structure of the buildings.

"This comes along with passion. Success has a lot to do with the commitment/urgency and passion you devote to your profession," said the 30-year-old mother of one.

"If I manage to acquire a long-term contract in this project, I think in two years' time I will be able to manage my own project, and to build my own house. I am looking forward to building a strong house, using my own skills, and this house will be a great example to other women."

Florence is part of a group of 80 women on the site, as well as 421 men. In many ways, this is a landmark project, not least because so many women are involved in the construction process.

The Rwanda water treatment plant began construction in 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2020. It will service 500,000 homes, businesses and factories. It is the first public-private partnership of its kind in the country. The African Development Bank financed about $18.87 million of the estimated cost of $61.42 million.

In Rwanda, water is more than a source of life. It is also an economic enabler, especially for women. According to researchers, the less time women spend walking long distances to fetch water, the more it frees them up to be gainfully engaged in economic activities.

For that reason, water will be a major theme at the Global Gender Summit to be hosted in Kigali in November by the African Development Bank and the government of Rwanda. The topics include:

Water, sanitation and hygiene services - enabler for women and youth empowerment in Africa; and

Mainstreaming gender in water management.

The women at the plant are already feeling the benefits of their involvement in the water project.

"I enjoy being around my colleagues, especially the most experienced ones, because they offer me guidance. As a woman, I feel valued and proud to be in this profession, unlike before when it was known to be a man's job only. I am grateful," said Charlotte Nyirangarukiyimana, a carpenter.

She said her earnings at the plant had put her in a position to support her family and invest in her future, which includes buying a plot of land.

"This job has enabled me to pay school fees for my siblings... My plan is to go back to school to upgrade my skills, along with an increased income, then I can manage a full project on my own."

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