Last Tuesday afternoon, Alpha 2 found themselves watching three women furiously mixing mortar beside a five metre deep pit. While, brick by brick, the foundations of the new girls- only toilet block at Peluhanda Primary School started to take shape, we realised that our preconceptions about gender equality in rural Tanzania needed reassessing.
Over the last week, Alpha 2 have completed a lot of training so we can fully understand our place in Peluhanda. During these sessions, we have been learning about the 17 Global Goals. In a male majority group, the girls of Alpha 2 have been especially interested in Global Goal number 5, ‘Gender Equality’.
Having seen the power of the local women first hand, we have settled in to our home stays and continued to learn more about life here. Life is not easy for Peluhanda’s people, especially for the women and girls. We have found in our baseline survey that the majority of water collection is done by women and girls. Some households live up to two steep and rough kilometres away from an unprotected well, their only water source. Carrying the water in buckets on their heads, they can spend up to one hour each trip retrieving up to 100 litres a day. Some of the children are collecting water after, or during, a long day of studying. Collecting and treating water with our homestay mama was an eye opening experience and we all found ourselves missing our taps.
Peluhanda Primary is a worthy source of pride for the village. Unfortunately, there is still an educational attainment gap between boys and girls in Tanzania. Part of the reason many girls struggle to regularly attend school is that they often don’t have access to adequate or hygienic toilet facilities. When girls reach puberty and have to deal with their periods without access to washing facilities or even a way of sanitary disposal, issues such as embarrassment or risk to health, prevent girls from feeling comfortable coming to school. The school’s current toilet block does not adequately cater for the needs of female school pupils. Many of the cubicles do not provide sufficient privacy and additionally there is nowhere to safely dispose of sanitary items. Therefore, alongside the local community, Alpha 2 and our project partner SHIPO (Southern Highlands Participatory Organisation) are helping to construct a new girls-only toilet facility for the school. This new block will have more cubicles, increased privacy, an incinerator for the safe and hygienic disposal of sanitary products and a washing area.
The community, SHIPO and we in Alpha 2 are passionate and committed in working towards increasing female school attendance rates and we have all hit the ground running on the construction site. The local fundi (builders) are teaching us the tricks of the trade with incredibly good humour. We have started laying initial brick foundations at the site and collecting water for construction purposes. In addition to this, we are undertaking baseline surveys with community members to enable the community, Raleigh and SHIPO to further understand concerns and issues facing Peluhanda’s people.
Local women digging at the construction site in Peluhanda
The construction site for the new latrines
Laying the foundations for a private cubicle
By Alpha Two
Photos by Alpha Two