The plastic barrel will hold up to fifty litres of water, which weighs about 50kg. Some people still use the traditional open gourds, which must be even more difficult to balance. From an early age, girls will help their mothers in the arduous task of fetching water. Although the distances covered can be great (15km is common, sometimes much more), their sense of balance and stamina are highly developed, and the women rarely if ever need to rearrange the loads with their hands. Apart from feeling sorry for them whenever I saw them along the roadside, my overriding impression was one of amazement - that they could carry such heavy loads and yet remain erect: their gait remained light and fluid. Personally, I can barely lift one of those jerry-cans, never mind balance it on my head and smile sweetly for the camera!
Credit: photo scanned from a series of slides produced by KAS-Co (Nairobi, Kenya).