‘Concern in Action’ is a recurring field report from Concern Worldwide. Founded in Ireland in 1968, Concern Worldwide is a global organization tackling extreme poverty in the world’s poorest and most danger-ridden countries.
Gloria Kafuria, 26, sets off on another day’s work winding through the remote green hills of northwestern Tanzania, first by jeep and then by foot. She walks quickly, her shoes covered in fresh red earth. This area is home to some of the poorest and hardest to reach communities in Tanzania; so there is never a moment to waste.
There is nothing simple or convenient about the work Gloria does. As a water and sanitation engineer with Concern Worldwide in Ngara, Tanzania, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Women had to suffer a lot to come down here [to fetch] water,” she says. “They used to lose a lot of time and energy.”
Petite with a wide and easy smile, Gloria is breaking down barriers traditionally imposed on women one water point at a time.
Standing above her latest project, which uses solar energy to pump water to as many as 3,000 people a day, Gloria recognizes that there are challenges that come with being a female engineer, above and beyond the rigorous planning and labor. “It has been tough, I shouldn’t deny that,” Gloria says. “As an African culture, a woman should be led by a man. I have to lead men. It’s been a challenge for them to accept me. I have to do everything right so that I earn their trust.”
From an early age, Gloria was taught not to accept the status quo. Her father, a local contractor, first sparked her interest in construction. He instilled in her that she could do anything she set her mind to. Even after he passed away, Gloria carried his belief with her through sleepless nights studying in college, where she was one of only a handful of engineering students. When she was offered an internship with Concern in Ngara, she jumped at the opportunity. It wasn’t long before she took on the role of full-time water and sanitation engineer.
“When woman are empowered, they can achieve a lot. They should do more than what they think they can do. They shouldn’t be seeing their limit. The sky’s their limit.”
When she was designing the solar-powered water system, many local people believed it would not work. They were skeptical not only of the solar technology, but also that a young female engineer could pull off such an ambitious plan. “This is something that makes me really proud as a female engineer,” Gloria says, standing beside a water tap in the center of the village of Muganza. “I am proud that I designed it, and it is working. It also saves a lot of women in this village from walking long distances to fetch water.”
Godliver Saloman, 38, is one of those women. A farmer, Godliver used to walk at least 30 minutes three times a day to fetch water. “There’s a big difference,” she says. “I used to have to carry water. I don’t have to walk so far anymore.”
When she isn’t designing and building water systems, Gloria takes it upon herself to show other women and girls that they should never settle.
“Whenever a girl needs an inspirational talk, I am always there,” she says. “When woman are empowered, they can achieve a lot. They should do more than what they think they can do. They shouldn’t be seeing their limit. The sky’s their limit.”
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Crystal Wells is part of the communications team at Concern Worldwide US, a global humanitarian organization committed to eliminating extreme poverty and improving the lives of the world’s poorest. Before Concern, Crystal worked on-the-ground in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak. She has bachelor’s degrees in both business administration and communications from Boston University and lives in New York City. Visit Concern | @concern