Women have bemoaned water shortages in urban areas, saying they were being exposed to Covid-19 and abuse by males as they are forced to crowd for hours at boreholes.
This was revealed during an online dialogue organised by the Women for Economic and Social Empowerment (WESE) on challenges being faced by women due to the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
WESE executive director Ms Kundai Sabrina Chambara said it was concluded that while everyone was facing challenges due to Covid-19, women were carrying the biggest burden.
“Water shortages have become a daily challenge especially in urban areas where citizens have to crowd at boreholes to access clean water,” he said.
“Councils should make water and other social amenities easily available.”
A number of urban councils are struggling to provide uninterrupted water supplies to residents and many residents have turned to boreholes to get water for all domestic uses including cooking, washing dishes, bathing and the toilets.
Chitungwiza Residents Trust director Ms Alice Kuveya weighed in saying issues of water, sanitation and domestic violence were a cause for concern in Harare’s dormitory town.
“Abuses are emanating at boreholes and this is really affecting women,” she said.
“Women have also faced a lot of abuses as men now spend more and more time at home, which has seen a surge in gender violence.”
In Chitungwiza, which is run by the MDC, running water is supplied once a fortnight.
Vendors are now cashing in on the crisis and selling the water for up to $40 per 20-litre per bucket.
Those who cannot afford to buy water rely on boreholes, which have since been invaded by Mafias that control queues.
It is understood that some women are asked for sex in exchange for preferential treatment at the boreholes, which experts fear could turn into Covid-19 super spreaders as there is no observance of guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation, together with Government, such as wearing of face masks.
Ms Kundai said among the other challenges faced by women during lockdown is domestic violence and the disproportionate allocation of domestic duties, with women shouldering the bulk of the burden of unpaid care work.
“Better conflict resolution methods should be adopted other than resorting to violence. A culture of dialogue in homes should be instilled and learning to coexist with family members,” she said.
Ms Chambara said Government, churches and other supporting institutions should offer psychological support to families to enable them to deal with the traumatic experience due to Covid-19.
She said going forward, WESE will continue to facilitate dialogue among women and men to enable them to co-create solutions to the challenges facing the country.