As she skims through neatly stacked files on her desk, four water clerks sit patiently waiting to brief their manager on previous day outcomes. The silence in the room is frequently interrupted by the ringing phone. Meet Diana Rose, the first female manager of the Osieko Nambo Water Project – one of the main water supplier for 8,000 people in Siaya County. During the meeting with her technical team, she exudes confidence and gives directions and advice, emphasizing customer service and billing accuracy.
Diana joined the water project in May 2019 after a competitive recruitment process. Prior to joining the enterprise, she run a successful business in the town which earned her respect among her peers due to innovativeness and resilience.
The USAID Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project (KIWASH) has supported Osieko Nambo over the past two years through training and mentoring with emphasis on operations and maintenance, gender inclusion, customer service, marketing and infrastructure improvements. Following these trainings, the management were challenged to consider women for the vacant manager’s position.
Prior to KIWASH’s support, Osieko Nambo was characterized by high electricity bills averaging USD 700 per month. Half the water pumped out was unaccounted for – lost either through leaks in pipes or theft. And improper recordkeeping meant financial misappropriation was rampant. “I applied for the position because I saw the growth potential – both for myself and for the project,” Diana says. “Despite having one of the largest water resources to serve the community, our taps still ran dry. I came here to change that.”
Osieko Nambo has since doubled its monthly revenues. “KIWASH has been very supportive to ensure we supply clean water to more people in a sustainable manner,” adds Diana. “The amount of water lost has been cut in half to a manageable 26 percent, and thanks to the new solar pump, our monthly electric bill is now down to USD 400 per month.” Much of these improvements can be attributed to Diana’s hands-on management style. “She makes unscheduled visits and always answers our phone calls. I once rang her at eight at night because of a burst pipe, and she showed up with two plumbers that evening,” commends one costumer, 80-year-old Ann Odore.
Her leadership stint at the helm has not come without its challenges. “I still have to grapple with male counterparts who believe that they cannot take instructions or suggestions from women. However, only the strong and committed leaders remain to tell a story of success,” Diana says with a determined smile.