Meet the hand pump mechanic who won the hearts of villagers

Nov 25, 2017

Mamma Isata Kamara © Alpha Sesay/ UNDP Sierra Leone

Forty-seven-year-old, Isata Kamara is loved and adored by most of her fellow residents in Mafaray Village, a remote community just outside Kambia district, Northern Sierra Leone.

Her fame has not come cheap. She gained popularity as her community relied solely on her to service their only source of water - the only handpump in the community, built by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from The People of Japan.  The handpump serves an average of 1000 people from 12 outlying communities.

Mammie Isata as she is fondly called, cannot read or write. “I cannot even spell my name,” she said with a smile. She couldn’t even remember her age.

This didn’t pull her down. She is a fast learner. She has made every experience educational.

When the UNDP in partnership with UN Women initiated gender-mainstreaming in the maintenance of community handpump, hygiene, and management, Mammie Isata was among the other 360 women who benefitted from the training.

Mamie Isata despite her age did not shy away from learning. She captured the opportunity when she presented herself and went for the training. “I was taught water and sanitation, hygiene and handpump maintenance,” she proudly informed us.

In her community, anything to do with machinery was considered a no-go-area for women.

Last Thursday, she was confronted with a challenge. Her community was in serious distress, the hand pump had broken.

Some members of the community immediately contacted Mammie Isata.  With a spanner in one hand and what looked like half cut water bottle, another, she carefully but speedily dismantled the bolt and knot one-by-one.

Women and children waited patiently to know the gravity of the problem.

At first, they were nervous. Then the news came. “Nothing is wrong with it,” She said confidently. “It’s just some rust,” as she showed the rust inside the crank.

She applied oil and wiped the rust thoroughly. But they were still pessimistic. Carefully, she coupled-up each of the parts in their positions.

Within minutes, she pulled the handle of the pump and there was water, to jubilant onlookers.

This explains why she is so famous among her fellow community members.

“This makes me happy and empowered, being able to fix a problem that affects members of my community,” she said.

With thanks to the People of Japan, 60 hand pumps in 60 communities in 3 chiefdoms of Kambia District benefitted from the ‘Strengthening access to health care and community-led development’ project.  The project was designed to support the strengthening of sub-regional post-Ebola medical surveillance and socio-economic livelihood intervention in the Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.

In all, there over 8,000 people directly benefit from the interventions funded by the Government of Japan in Sierra Leone. 

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