The Weight of Water in Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp

The Weight of Water in Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp

Publication info

Posted
7/20/17
By
Ninja Taprogge, Emergency Communications Officer in Dadaab


Men used to approach Hado Abdi Gedi full of anger, sometimes calling her names. Why? Because Hado works. More specifically, because Hado is doing a job that has always been reserved for men. She is one of three female security guards for water tanks in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya.
 
Usually, women stand on one side at the water tab stand when they fill their yellow canisters with clean water. Each family has several canisters and receives about 33 liters of water (about 9 gallons) per person per day. This is a Somali tradition that was practiced by Hado before she came to Dadaab refugee camp in 1997. But Hado broke the glass ceiling. She is now part of the men's domain. The 28-year-old is not only in charge of the security around water tanks, she also ensures that the refugee community receives fresh water twice a day.

"I am proud to have a job. For me it is important to bear responsibility not only at home, but also for my fellow Somali people,” she says smiling.

With the support of European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) Hado contributes to a supply system that supports more than 160,000 refugees – more than half of the camp’s population – with almost 5 million liters of water per day. Hado is one of 1,600 CARE refugee incentive workers who maintain the water system, support food distributions, or conduct hygienic training in refugee households.

For more than 25 years, CARE has worked for and with refugees in Dadaab. Among CARE refugee volunteers, there are more and more women. For CARE, it’s always a question of equality of opportunity in the community.

"The promotion of women and girls is one of our main concerns," says Nixon Otieno, Senior Program Manager for CARE in Dadaab.

Hado got the job even though she never went to school. "In Somalia I was not allowed to leave the house. I could never go to school. But a lot has changed since I moved to Dadaab,” she says.

The ongoing civil war and severe droughts in Somalia forced Hado and hundreds of thousands of families to flee their home country. In Dadaab Hado married, gave birth to her children, and became the head of her family after her husband passed away.

"After the death of my husband, we urgently needed money to survive," Hado says. That is why she made her way to the bulletin board posting job offers. "At first I was trained to do hygiene promotion, then I worked in one of CARE’s water committees until I finally applied for the job as a water tank safety guard."

First, she had to fight for acceptance in her job, but now the community has accepted her position. "In the beginning men came to me and complained, but I simply did not listen. I just did my job," Hado says. "Now they know that I take my job seriously and provide the community with water on time. Now, everyone has faith in me — even the men."

With the small amount of money she receives from CARE, Hado mainly buys school materials for her children, who all go to school in Dadaab. For her family’s future, she wants her children to be able to take care of themselves, without having to rely on monthly food rations distributed by aid organizations. And she would also like to see women achieving a higher status within Somali society.

"Sometimes we have to challenge men. Taking responsibility has helped me to feel more comfortable than ever before. I hope that more women will have the opportunity to take their lives into their own hands," Hado says.

In Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, women are breaking glass ceilings and taking their lives into their own hands. Credit: Sven Torfinn/CARE.

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