A research internship in the Women Water Watch project

By Gianella Jiménez, Student IOB-University of Antwerp

The Institute of Development Policy (IOB) and Mzumbe University joined forces to do fieldwork research in Bagamoyo-Tanzania.  As a current international student in the advanced master in Development, Evaluation, and Management in IOB, I found myself enthusiastic to apply to do a research internship in data collection using drawings to gather information about children’s perceptions of water scarcity in villages in Bagamoyo-Tanzania from 18th November 2022 until December 26th 2022. The research internship was conducted under the supervision of Prof. Nathalie Holvoet and Dr. Sara Dewachter from IOB, and Dr. Cristina Shitima of Mzumbe University.

Photo: Miembesaba students taken 22-11-22

Once I arrived, preparation for the activities started on Sunday Nov 20th, early in the morning in Bagamoyo, I remembered going to town to buy some pens, speakers, and materials for the activities in the school. We also bought some food to prepare our meals. In the afternoon, we started the dialogue to organize final details and give each one a task for the fieldwork. The team which was made up of Mzumbe previous students, and the women monitors in Bagamoyo, the teachers from the schools, and myself. All the information about the activity was explained by Eliya Lushiku who was the team leader from Mzumbe University. Then, we practiced playing the water games and organized activities for the next days in the schools.

Photo: Meeting with Mzumbe team, teachers, and women monitors taken the 20-11-22

The next day, the team (the women monitors, the Mzumbe students and myself) started the activities in the primary schools. These consisted of several awareness raising activities (song, presentation, game, drawings, water tests, …) on the importance of (the quality of) drinking water.  Children’s drawings about water scarcity were conducted to primary students from public schools in Bagamoyo-Tanzania in order to collect and evaluate the children’s perceptions related to water scarcity in their villages. As a result, a total of 485 drawings were analyzed from children in 6th grade from Bigilo, Yombo, Miembesaba, Kongo, Kitame, and Kidomolo primary public schools. 

Prior to their participation, students were given instructions in Swahili about making a drawing with their main water problems and solutions, and were required to write a short interpretation below; so, the kids were given in a total of 45 minutes. The research question was focused on identifying the main problems children perceive in their villages related to water scarcity. 

Several activities were conducted such as drawings, the water song, a survey, and a water test. The kids, most of them Muslims, on average 13 years old, were adorable. They smiled and enjoyed posting on my camera. Moreover, most of them were really curious about the game, and the drawings to enhance their knowledge about water; Indeed, I could say that the “winning activity” was the water song. They really enjoyed singing and even danced. I was happy the song could bring them joy. 

Time (approximately) for each activity: 3:30 hours

  • DAY 1 Pretest: 11:30-12:05
  • Drawing:  12:10-12:53
  • Song: 13:00- 13:31
  • Water test: 1:40-14:10
  • DAY 2: results water test 
  • Song 12:30:12:45
  • game 13:06-14:34
  • Posttest 2:45-15:
  • Water watch warrior 15:05-15:20
Photo: Bigilo school. 22.11.22

Besides the awareness raising activities, the research focus was to study if drawings are a good research tool for needs assessment/ evaluation. Indeed, children gave special importance to the quality of water, to the fact of water resources being contaminated by animals and human practices. Lastly, in terms of methods children´s drawings represent a ꞌwindowꞌ into their feelings providing valuable information for the assessment of children´s perception of the water crisis.

Photo: Children drawing.

I saw students playing the game enthusiastically. Here you can observe how the women monitor shared the game’s rules and interacted with them. This is an interesting method to teach new skills about water practices in a relaxed environment.

Photo: Students and women monitor playing the water game.
Photo: Yombo students

Additionally, my task was to observe the school water facilities and infrastructure. Unfortunately, the schools are in not good condition. The schools have very basic infrastructure and without any maintenance. In terms of infrastructure, just Miembesaba school counted with water in their toilet and sink; however, I visited the toilets and they did not have other facilities such as soap, clean gel, or alcohol. While Bigilo school had some new toilets that were built four years ago; however, due to the water crises, the schools have not been able to use them. 

Additionally, the weather is a challenge in Bagamoyo, it was intense most of the days 38° or 40° and the schools do not have roofs to protect the children from the sun. Here you can see students playing in the shadow of the tree. 

Photo: Primary students in their spare time.

As a foreigner, you will be noticed in Tanzania, the children, and the community usually wants to interact with you. The kids usually called me “mzungu”.  Listening to that was really funny, and you easily get used to that. If you are a future IOB student going to Tanzania try to interact with people, and students, bring kids some chocolates, take pics with them, and play with them. I confirm that the best way to learn and see things with new eyes is by sharing. 

Photo: Students, women monitor, and myself. 
Photo: Students and I after the drawings.

Also, I remembered on 26th November we did a final review of the drawings, organized, and checked the data, and we started the manual coding. After, one week of data collection, we traveled to Mzumbe University where I stayed for the next weeks. Later, on Saturday 27th in the afternoon, it took us around 4 hours from Bagamoyo to reach Morogoro. 

Overall, it was an intense week. Collecting primary information is most of the time a lot of work, and you have to bear in mind how to deal with the challenges, and always bring the best attitude and solutions.

Data Analysis

When I reach Morogoro, I was given a desk in the Vlir-UOS office. On this stage it was necessary to start with the data cleaning and data analysis. I used thematic coding in Nvivo. Then, I did the interpretation of the codes- Research paper. Overall, as you might see the Mobility window research internship implies many skills like efficient time management, good energy and attitude, research skills, and some previous background in research. 


Indeed, an academic opportunity abroad like this also brings opportunities to explore and enjoy the beauty of Tanzania and its culture. I decided to take fully the opportunity, and I gave myself some time to explore Zanzibar, and I also visited Mikumi National Park where I took a safari. It was a new and important experience to have the opportunity to see the wild animals free in their environment. 

Photo: Elephants in Mikumi National Park

In terms of the food, I was exposed to a different cuisine that I found really tasty especially when I visited Zanzibar. Forodhani was a principal spot where you will find different types of food, they will explain to you the different types of dishes and the species.  

Photo: Forodhani food market.

Overall, I had an amazing time in Zanzibar, I saw this unique sunset and experienced the Indian Ocean. 

Photo: Zanzibar sunset


I want to thank Prof. Nathalie Holvoet and Dr. Sara Dewachter for believing in my capacity and skills, and for being all the time monitoring the advance of the activities in Mzumbe. I believe that we collaborated well since we communicated most of the time on how to improving the coding of the project. Also, I want to give a special shout-out to the academic staff at Mzumbe University for being so welcome, particularly to Dr. Christina Shitima.

Finally, I met amazing people in Tanzanian and made some new friends. In sum, I have built so many memories in this short time, including the value of water, its sources, and resources, I have appreciated life from a more genuine and uncomplicated point of view, the value of sharing, the laughter of a child, the music, the food, the customs and a bit of Swahili. In short, there are so many memories that I will remain in my heart.  

                                                  ASANTE SANA/ THANK YOU /GRACIAS 

Citer ce billet
Sara Dewachter (2023, 1 septembre). A research internship in the Women Water Watch project. Women Water Watch. Consulté le 14 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/vtct

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