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Exhibiting ‘Wata wahala’ in Abuja

Would these abandoned water installations have been in a better state if women had been in charge of installing, managing and maintaining them? After all,…

Would these abandoned water installations have been in a better state if women had been in charge of installing, managing and maintaining them?
After all, women are direct stakeholders: they directly benefit from well-functioning water installations, which spare them lots of daily trips.
Wouldn’t it be fair to give women the power and authority over water installations – from installation to management and maintenance? They traditionally carry the burden of fetching water – so they will know better than anyone else where the shoe pinches.
 Likewise, one might wonder: would Nigeria’s water supply infrastructure be in a better state today if men traditionally had been responsible for fetching water? Would dysfunctional water systems have been more swiftly repaired or replaced?
These were the questions raised with the photography exhibition “Wata wahala” organised by MIND (Media, Information & Narrative Development) in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Thought Pyramid Art Centre, both in Abuja. 
Ilse van Lamoen-Isoun, Programme Director of MIND, explained that the organisation decided to showcase the photographs which shot as part of its “Women’s Advancement Through Cinema and Human Exchange” (WATCH) project.
She said: “In the community service that we have been working in as part of WATCH one of the main issues that came to the fore is adequate access to water. It’s not just the effect of their having to go out to fetch water but the effects it has on other areas of their lives.”
Citing an example, Isoun said: “For instance women in Kayache if they can’t afford borehole water have to walk about one and a half kilometres for about 40 minutes to go fetch water. They walk this same distance back. This probably isn’t all food the day because their family likely has need for than this trip of water.”
On how these affect their economic self-reliance she said: “All this time they are going back and forth getting water, they can’t do any work to earn a living. This is a tremendous waste of human resources. Then there is also physical energy that is exerted by water fetching. These are issues we wanted to highlight and we felt that the International Women’s Day and Water Day provided the opportunity to organise this exhibition.”
The exhibition confronted the audience with a simmering issue that affects millions of urban poor women and girls in and around the “model city” Abuja in their daily struggle to fetch water.
The photographs were captured by young, rising Nigerian camera artists like Fati Abubakar, Tom Saater, Collins Peter and Kassim Braimah with a passion for the cause.
Proceeds for the works sold are geared towards improving the water situation in the portrayed communities by the repairs or installations of water systems.
The exhibition ended on Wednesday with a panel discussion, “Women, water & work.”

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