We have been taking part in research for The Washing Machine Project. Each of our ladies has been interviewed about how they currently wash their clothes. All of them wash by hand in plastic bowls. The findings are both fascinating and sad.
On average, our women began washing clothes for their families at the age of just 10. One woman started the chore when she was only five. The average age of our women is 48 years old, so most have been manually washing clothes for 38 years. The most aged woman still washing her clothes is 87, and she began at age 7. After 80 years of manually washing her clothing, it is no wonder she complains of back pain.
In fact, back pain from handwashing was the most common ailment among our women. Most of them have to bend over plastic bowls on the ground. Other downsides to manual washing were joint, arm, chest, hand and leg pain. A couple of women complained of uterus problems; uterine prolapse is a common problem for women who perform manual labour and give birth to children in quick succession.
Our ladies are expert multi-taskers; while letting their clothes soak, they get on with other tasks. Most of them clean their rooms or cook food; others took care of their children. Only a few were able to do pleasurable tasks such as reading, resting or bathing while waiting for their laundry.
The Washing Machine Project hopes to provide manual washing machines to vulnerable families to reduce the time taken to complete washes. Their washing machines also reducing water consumption, and consequently, there is a positive impact on the environment.
Our ladies were asked to imagine what they would do if they were provided with one of these washing machines and, as a result, had more time on their hands. Sadly, over half would use the time to get on with other chores and activities such as farming and childcare. About one quarter would opt for leisure activities such as reading, studying, handicrafts and simply resting.