An inmate at Naivasha Women's prison in Kenya fetches water from one of the cleaning areas

Kenya: How water access is changing lives for women in Kenyan prison

Within the walls of Naivasha Women's Prison, Mercy* is going about her daily routine of fetching water to prepare lunch for her and her fellow inmates. Mercy, like many others in the prison, has served a significant amount of time behind bars and knows firsthand the challenges and obstacles that come with being incarcerated.
Article 06 April 2023 Kenya

One of the biggest challenges for inmates at Naivasha Women's Prison was access to clean and safe water. Mercy couldn't help but reflect on how much her life has changed since the installation of the piped water system.

We used to go to the Naivasha men's medium prison with buckets every day to collect water for all our needs in the prison. But now we don't do that anymore. We don't have any water problems, even during this drought season.

says Mercy

Things have changed since the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) implemented a water project to improve hygiene in prison. The project involved the installation of a pipeline connected to the main supply line and an elevated reservoir tank supplying clean, safe, and treated water for use in the cells, kitchen, and washing areas of the prison.

Mercy couldn't hide her excitement as she narrated how the project had transformed their lives.

We can now focus on other activities, like learning to bake, making soap, and even going to the shamba (garden). Personally, I am a paralegal in here, and this has freed time for me to serve other inmates.

adds Mercy
Inmates fetching water and doing laundry at Naivasha Women's Prison
Inmates fetching water and doing laundry at Naivasha Women's Prison Josiah Karanja Mburu/ICRC

Joyce* another inmate, echoed Mercy's sentiments and narrates how the project had reduced their budget, enabling them to request for more resources to aid in their rehabilitation.

With water being salty in Naivasha, most of us would complain that our skin was getting rough. But with this water now, there are no complaints as it is treated. Also, in the management of the prison, the budget used to purchase water has reduced, so we sometimes ask Madam for special requests which she can accommodate.

adds Joyce

The head of Naivasha Women's Prison, Jacinta Mutua commonly referred to as Madam, also commended the water project, noting how it had transformed the prison:

The inmates used to carry buckets and basins every day to fetch water and would get very tired. The whole day was usually spent on looking for water but now we have free time to do other activities related to the rehabilitation of the inmates.


She further noted that these extra activities have equipped the inmates to better prepare them adjust to civilian life when they are released and be able to readjust once they are back to their communities.

Inmates fetching water for kitchen and garden
Inmates fetching water for kitchen and garden Josiah Karanja Mburu/ICRC

Access to safe and constant water has impacted the lives of the inmates at Naivasha Women's Prison but the problem faced affects most of the prison facilities in Kenya. Together with the Kenya Red Cross, we continue to work with the Kenya Prison Services to promote humane living conditions for people deprived of freedom in Kenya.

*Names have been changed