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Empowering Kenyan women to drill for safe water in their homeland
Alice Awuor and Brenda Apiyo are rarities in Africa – women who very confidently and capably operate drilling equipment in search of safe water.
They both work for STADA, one of Lifewater Canada’s three partner organizations in Kenya.
In the earliest days of the partnership that began in 2021, Lifewater provided funding so STADA could offer health and hygiene education in many of the communities in Kisumu County where we were completing water projects.
Soon, our donors enabled Lifewater to arm STADA with the training and equipment to repair hand-powered pumps so dormant wells could produce safe water again. The next step, in early 2023, was for STADA to begin drilling new wells in the same way that other Lifewater-supported partners in Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Haiti are doing.
In October of 2023, Lifewater brought together teams from all three African nations to share what they know about drilling – including the operation and maintenance of new LS200 and LS300 rigs.
Some participants were already experienced drillers – invited to the two-week conference in Kisumu to offer their technical knowledge to everyone. Other participants – including Alice and Brenda – were people who’d been taught to repair pumps but didn’t have any drilling knowledge.
Alice (in the photo above) became part of STADA’s pump repair team in January of 2023, while Brenda joined about four months later. With their male counterparts, they began travelling from village to village, fixing one pump after another.
When it became possible for both women to attend the conference, they were two of 14 trainees – and the only females – invited to learn how to drill wells.
Alice, who has a diploma in water engineering, says almost all her former classmates are males, and so are most of her STADA co-workers.
But she’s not intimidated, having grown up in a family of eight in which she Is the only daughter. Nonetheless, Alice says, there are some people who inevitably question whether a woman can be a good driller.
“She’s a natural,” says Lifewater Canada vice-president Dan Nickol, who helped lead the conference, when asked to describe Alice’s drilling skills. Rocky Kolli, a Lifewater Liberia driller with more than 15 years of experience in operating rigs, agreed – calling Alice a very quick learner.
Dan and Rocky were equally complimentary of Brenda (in the next photo), saying the 24-year-old was a diligent and energetic student during each training session.
Within a few weeks after the conference ended, Alice and Brenda can both proudly say they’ve already drilled several wells.
“People will see two women drilling but still ask for the whereabouts of the driller," says Alice. They think the women are drilling assistants or simply laborers.
But she and Brenda are excited by the opportunity to serve as role models to many young African girls and women when villagers gather to watch a drilling project in their communities.
They’ll see confident, trail-blazing females committed to their craft, and capable of overcoming all the physical and technical challenges of being a lead driller.
“Drilling takes strength – muscle strength,” says Lifewater Canada president Lynda Gehrels.
“But it also takes planning, attention to detail, focus, and determination -- all of which these women have in spades. They are indeed forerunners and shining examples to encourage other girls to step into the fullness of their giftings and spread their enthusiasm as freely as the water they are providing.”