Session FT 3.12
Safe, accessible, private and nearby : making services work for women -- the key to meeting the MDG water and sanitation target
- The Earth Institute: Columbia University
- UNDP Administrator United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- Interagency Gender and Water Task Force (UN/DESA)
Equitable access to water and sanitation is vital to women, as in most cultures they are primarily responsible for the use and management of water resources and sanitation facilities as well as health care at the household level. Women’s voices are often unheard, however, and they end up with no choice about the type and location of services they receive. Thus, the facilities are often unavailable or inappropriate to meet their needs.
Daily water collection is time consuming and a burden for women. It often exposes women to the threat of violence. Attacks against women by men or wild animals may occur when they are carrying water in remote areas or where women have to walk longer distances in slums to reach public toilets or wait to relieve themselves in the open after nightfall. Having access to water close to the household reduces violence, as well as the time spent fetching water, allowing time for other activities, including training, growing food and income generation.
Lack of sanitation poses health hazards to women and girls, who may also suffer gastric disorders from postponing using the toilets to defecate. It is an impediment to girls’ education, especially in schools where no provisions are made for girls. Having access to sanitation improves health and enables girls to attend school.
The potential contribution of women to water resources management should not be underestimated. Over the years, women have accumulated an impressive store of environmental wisdom, being the ones to find water, to educate children in hygiene matters and to understand the impact of poor sanitation on health. Their contribution can vary from fundraising to active work on construction, preventive maintenance and repairs, to paying for water with labour. Targeting women for training and capacity building is critical to the sustainability of water and sanitation initiatives, particularly in technical and managerial roles.
Lessons learned and key messages
- Multi-stakeholder partnerships among CBOs, NGOs, municipal authorities, private sector, and donors, with balanced representation of women and men, are critical to sustainability
- Active involvement of women and men in planning, design, location and monitoring of facilities – is critical to generating a sense of local ownership and sustainability
- Change of mind-set of planners is necessary to involve poor women and men on an equal basis
- Gender sensitive approach: practical level (water and sanitation facilities close to homes; irrigation); decision-making level (women’s involvement in decision-making on planning, design, and monitoring; female trainers; women in technical jobs; women proportionately represented on water committees; sensitization of men)
- National level advocacy to influence government policy on gender issues to support and facilitate local actions
- WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) clubs in schools: many activities involving children in promoting hygiene and sanitation in schools – multiplier effect on families and communities
- Participatory gender surveys can at the same time generate information, raise awareness and build multi-stakeholder/multi-sector partnerships
- Partnership with development finance agencies to leverage more funds for investment in pro-poor and community training and empowerment processes
- Existing international agreements e.g., CEDAW, Beijing Platform for Action, Agenda 21, JPOI, etc that have been agreed by all can provide support to hold governments accountable for commitments to gender equality
- Specify need for sex-disaggregated data in project documents and programmes such as the Joint Monitoring Programme
- Provide incentives for managers to apply a gender approach in designing and implementing water and sanitation projects
- Leadership: Engage women leaders and managers to serve as role models in the effort to mainstream gender in water management at all levels.
- Promote sanitation and hygiene education by channelling efforts through women’s organizations, schools and health clinics; and include separate toilets for girls and boys
- Mobilize resources to improve access to safe water and sanitation, and involve women in income generating activities, without overburdening their workload
Orientations for action
- Formulate gender-sensitive strategies and policies that cut across water, social, health and education ministries;
- Provide specific and practical examples of how to translate the water community’s commitment to gender mainstreaming into consistent action on the ground;
- Strengthen legislation for land and water rights, particularly for women and indigenous people;
- Develop capacity and encourage equal participation among men and women in training and decision making;
- Provide technical assistance to local authorities and communities regarding low-cost technologies and access to information.
Local actions presented
Gender Mainstreaming in UN Habitat’s Water for African Cities
The presentation on Water for African Cities (WAC) II will briefly outline the gender mainstreaming strategy for the WAC as developed jointly by the Gender and Water Alliance (GWA) and UN Habitat. It will focus on how the priorities for pro-poor gender mainstreaming were derived from the participatory and rapid gender assessments in the 17 cities and how they are being integrated in the WAC implementation plans. Using the experience of Accra, Ghana, we will outline the changes being incorporated and expected in the implementation of the WAC priority areas due to the inclusion of gender and poverty considerations.
Gender Perspectives in Rural Water Supply Systems in Andean Countries
Bolivia, Peru and Chile Cases (Maria Angelica Alegria)
This presentation tries to identify and highlight the specificities of gender in some Andean countries of Latin America. Particularly, it will be shown that women’s unique capacity to create networks and joint work can generate synergies among and inside the communities leading to systems that work with the participation of all. With regard to water supply and sanitation service delivery in rural areas, the cases present amazing similarities no matter what the different levels of economic development, macroeconomic indices, etc. Additionally, it will be shown in terms of governance, how national policies and institutions try to respond equally to the different roles, needs, and priorities of women and men, aiming for the effectiveness and sustainability of water and sanitation interventions at the local levels.
Sanitation to Slum Dwellers
An alliance between the Pune Municipal Corporation, National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF), Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) and Mahila Milan, a federation of women's collectives, works to promote empowerment of slum dwellers in Pune, Maharashtra, India. The presentation will explain how this is a unique partnership that allows for a positive impact of accessible sanitation on the lives of the women in particular and other members of the household. The presentation will also detail how the project has promoted grassroots democracy and ensured accountability of institutions. In addition, some of the NGOs gave pride of place to slum women in the implementation of the programme.
WASH in Schools
Kenya, Priscila Wanjiru Karanja, age 12
A Kenyan girl describes why she joined the water, sanitation and hygiene education for schools (WASH) campaign at her primary school and what a great impact the programme had on the school and the slum community. The children got involved in cleaning up the environment and keeping the toilets clear. They got their parents and the wider community involved in the effort. The children also now have access to clean toilets which has reduced disease. They keep the toilets clean and the learning environment has greatly improved.
Surinam - Women for Water Partnership (Siegmien Staphorst Luanda Landveld)and
The National Women’s Movement of Surinam (NVB) specializes in capacity building and vocational training of women to acquire small businesses and skills. It has established a large project to provide water and sanitation in the rural areas of Surinam where a large portion of the households are headed by women. The local trainers start with capacity building to prepare women to participate on the water committees and then train them to maintain the water and sanitation installations.