Durban. The rains and floods of 2022. The worst in 60 years, we are told. My heart breaks for those living in flimsy structures who have lost everything, some even their lives.

Here in suburbia we have been luckier. The odd house has lost a retaining wall or a tree, and almost everyone has been without water or electricity – or both – for at least some of the time. Our household has been without water intermittently for nine days and counting. Luckily we had a little notice so that when our taps ran dry, we had a bath and several buckets and covered pots filled to the brim. But now my days are ruled by filling and refilling buckets and bottles for different designated purposes, from drinking to toilet flushing, and lugging them to the places where they are needed.

It has been a time for reflection. As I pant my way up and down the stairs with empty and full buckets, my mind turns to the lives of women in areas not served by in-house water. The dominance of water in my life for just a few days or – God help us – for a few weeks has suddenly brought to all my senses, not just my intellect, how those women can think of little else but water. That and food. Certainly not for training to become economically active, as our government urges them to do without first meeting this most basic of needs. No water in the early morning. The long trek to river or communal tap, the queuing for their turn to fill their containers with the precious liquid, the aching arms, back and legs on the way back home. Then the same journey again in the afternoon to ensure that there is water for the night. The time between trips filled with collecting firewood and coaxing disgruntled flames into enough heat to cook the family’s meal with careful measures of that hard-won water, often yielding little more than a starchy pulp. That is all they have to fuel the next of those daily water trudges.

Suddenly I am filled with a huge respect for these women, so often dismissed as being backward. Suddenly I see in them a greater strength of body and mind than I could ever hope to have.

Picture courtesy of Eyewitness News (