A WomenAid supported project training village women in the use of water systems.

The Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO) supports village efforts to attain clean water, basic sanitation and better health.  KWAHO originates from the concern, long felt by women throughout Kenya, regarding the distance rural women must often walk to collect safe drinking water.  This concern was taken up at the Women's' Conference (Mexico, 1975) and, with the backing of UNICEF, KWAHO was founded as a non-governmental organisation.  Although not a women's' organization, its prime objective is to make safe water readily available so that women can attend properly to the needs of their family and community.  In collaboration with the Government of Kenya, KWAHO supports efforts to bring safe water closer to all its people.  KWAHO has supported over a hundred water-related projects to help Kenyan women, and also carries out community development. 


At Independence in 1963 Kenya's population was 7 million.  It is now approaching 30 million and like many other African countries, Kenya faces serious difficulties in trying to help its people meet the need for water that is reasonably convenient, and above all safe.  Much of the country is arid or semi-arid.  Most rural people are poor.  

There is also a great need for basic sanitation.  Many people have no facilities at all, not even a hole in the ground.  Recognizing the direct link between women's access to clean water and the quality of life for all, KWAHO implements small water projects that women plan, execute and maintain.  Their participatory approach enables women to actively improve their own situations. 

KWAHO was founded by UNICEF as 'The UNICEF/Water For Health Project'.  Over the years it has given active support to more than a hundred small water-related projects.  All had a strong 'self-help' element often organized by local women's groups.  Community development was always an essential aspect.  Technical guidance was given by Ministries 'district officials' and UNICEF.  With accessible water, women are able to give more time to farming, and are better able to care for their children.   

In the mid-eighties, UNIFEM began collaboration with the UNDP's Promotion of the Role of Women in Water and Environmental Services (PROWWESS) programme, and the Kenyan Water and Health Oganization (KWAHO), to provide software assistance (community participation and training) to complement the hardware assistance.   

Under the project Training and Liaison Officers visited villages where they taught the importance and use of clean water and sensitised community participation before drilling boreholes and installing pumps.  The project trained female Community Water Leaders and organized workshops with them on community participatory training methods in health/sanitation and maintenance/use/repair of water pumps.  It aimed to form Water Committees at the community level.  WomenAid International subsequently supported a three year regional programme (1989-91).  

The Kwaho initiated projects are successful because they are based on a self-help operation.  However, water should be only an initiating point for development, it must be considered in conjunction with other needs in a village.  Although KWAHO is principally a water agency, it has a wide perspective which includes the related areas of health and sanitation.  And while KWAHO emphasizes better water for better health, it also seeks to foster development in the areas of nutrition, breast feeding, energy conservation, and income generation. 

The project proved catalytic in that its methodology was been adopted by the Swedish International Development Agency and other agencies in the surrounding areas.  It is a demonstration of how the participatory approach enables women to actively improve their own situations while contributing to community efforts to attain clean water, basic sanitation and better health.