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Everyday practices of poor urban women to access water: Lived realities from a Nairobi slum


Year published: 2020
Categories: Articles

Author / Authors:

  • Anindita Sarkar


African Studies, 79:2, 212-231, DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2020.1781594


Women living in low-income areas and informal settlements in the cities regularly have to undergo hardships to access water from overstressed shared water sources in the absence of individual utility piped connections within their premises. Drawing from an ethnographic research in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, this study looks at the ‘daily’ ‘multiple’ and ‘repetitive’ actions that women particularly engage to ‘fetch’, ‘store’ and ‘save’ water for themselves and their families. Besides the woes of finding a running tap and wasting valuable time waiting in the queues, procuring water entails physical hardship that often leads to mental agony that sometimes even threatens the safety and dignity of these women’s lives. Since water supply is frequently interrupted for several days, women struggle to store water, design innovative ways for their families to save water and even cut back on their own water usage at the cost of their health and hygiene to cope with water shortages. Thus, poor urban women experience ‘everyday sufferings from water’ as their everyday choices to access water are restricted by their individual assessment of household water requirements, ownership of assets and their ability to access agencies of power.

KEYWORDS: everyday practices, women, Nairobi, slum, water, urban poor


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