Let us keep Kigali street cleaners out of harm's way

Editor, Refer to react to the article, “Female city cleaners; the unsung heroes” (The New Times, May 22). At last, my heroines have received due recognition and praise!
Kigali is known for green, well-manicured lawns, thanks in part to the women who clean the city's public places. (File)
Kigali is known for green, well-manicured lawns, thanks in part to the women who clean the city's public places. (File)

Editor,

Refer to react to the article, “Female city cleaners; the unsung heroes” (The New Times, May 22).

At last, my heroines have received due recognition and praise!

The recognition is long overdue because the daily menial works of these women go unnoticed.

Health experts will eventually dwell on health consequences these ladies are exposed to throughout their daily engagement. Adequately trained road safety engineers should look, during the designing study, into our road ways shared among light and heavy vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles, pedestrians, with our city cleaners at work.

The designer/ergonomist that I am, my first concern has been and still is why these ladies are not trained to work more comfortably, and to be more aware of the many ill-health consequences of their occupation. For instance, the evident negative effects of having all day long, and for successive weeks, months, and years, their spine so bent over the 90 degree angle.

I often make sad jokes with those ladies telling them that, even at my respectable age, I would never date any of them so prematurely aged, with such a bent back...!

And the effects of not wearing neither appropriate masks to prevent dust or pollutant fumes inhalation, nor gloves and shoes protecting their hands and feet in such heavily and dangerously contaminated environment.

Why aren’t those ladies given appropriate tools and equipment to perform their work more securely and more efficiently?

No brooms specially designed for the job are made available to them, no spades, and no dust and rubbish carrying containers are given to the ladies. They do their best with makeshift and far inappropriate tools.

It is indeed legitimate to rejoice the cleanliness of our capital city, but at whose expense?

Francois-Xavier Nziyonsenga

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I, too, can only express my admiration for the “army” of women who keep our city so clean at all times.

However, all the pictures of these admirable workers show a serious problem that it seems no one has noticed. These women work by the sides of very busy roads and boulevards or in their median strips sweeping the roads with hand blooms or trimming grass for long hours at a time.

The pictures of these women show them to be rightly equipped and donning high-visibility reflective clothing. But their work environment—on the road—also means they are continuously inhaling all those exhaust fumes from our mostly crappy old vehicles for extended hours.

Why are they not equipped with breathing masks to reduce the amount of fumes they are inhaling? Why are they also not equipped with heavy work gloves and boots, again given the nature of their working environment?

Besides ensuring to pay them a decent living wage that allows them to look after their families, the best way to show that we recognise the contribution these women workers make to the cleanliness, tidiness and overall wholesomeness of our capital city, which we are all rightly proud of, is to guarantee them secure and healthy working conditions.

City of Kigali, the ball is in your court.

Mwene Kalinda

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Rwanda, as a country, is exemplary in many ways and for many reasons. Good governance, ease of doing business, zero tolerance to corruption, very high levels of safety and security and, of course, Umuganda are some of these.

As you have rightly pointed out in your article, the “least highlighted link” is the large army of female cleaners. They have definitely contributed to making Rwanda, as so often referred to, the “Singapore of Africa”.

I definitely do not mean to compare Rwanda and Singapore. But what is notable is the fact that Singapore has earned the distinction of being an impeccably neat and clean city. And this great nation, nestled in the heart of the African continent is, likewise, earning that distinction.

It is a well known saying that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”.

The beauty of Rwanda, which is so well reflected through the dedication of female city cleaners, will gradually move towards a middle-income economy and the dream of Rwanda’s visionary President Paul Kagame will soon be a reality.

Clarence Fernandes

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