Cecilia Alda Vidal is a PhD student in Human Geography at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on the everydayness of urban water and sanitation infrastructures. Her PhD project aims at developing a critical understanding of how the everyday decisions and practices of different urban actors (low income residents, urban planners, utility workers…) shape unequal access to sanitation and wastewater infrastructures in Lilongwe, Malawi.
“This cartoon is based on my PhD research and tells the story of the women who work at the water kiosks system operating in the low income areas of Lilongwe, Malawi. As a low-cost solution for the provision of water to low-income neighbourhoods, water kiosks rely on their construction as gendered spaces of water labour. Not only are they perceived as female spaces because they are more frequented by women who are responsible for the domestic labour of water collection, but also the labour required for their operation is framed as being more suitable to women.
The feminisation of this water labour has material implications for women working as kiosk attendants who despite having an income opportunity and the possibility to build on social relations, they have to deal with low paid jobs, and the physical and emotional risks of working odd hours to ensure both neighbours’ access to water and the financial viability of the system. A more critical consideration of the infrastructural work of women within the kiosk system is essential given how significant kiosks are becoming as water provision infrastructures in Global South cities.”