BRIDGE Report 11: Practical Strategies for Involving Women as Well as Men in Water and Sanitation Activities

Author: S. Baden
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: May 1993
Do women and men benefit equally from water and sanitation activities' Do they have adequate control over design and management of services' The move towards the community provision of services and greater involvement of women in water supply and sanitation (WSS) policy has done little to address gender relations and inequalities. Programmes have often resulted in heavier workloads for women, with their work often taken for granted. Meanwhile, men continue to fill managerial, decision-making and technical positions. Rather than involving women as a special target group, programmes should consider the constraints of gender roles and relations in involving both men and women at all levels and stages of projects. Women's participation in WSS as an empowering experience, with any new responsibilities recognised and rewarded, should be sought.

Recent years have witnessed a shift towards the decentralisation of WSS services, with a much greater role given to NGOs and community based participation in service provision. Prevailing gender divisions of labour have meant that women are principal managers of water supplies and have main responsibility for informal health care and education. This, combined with recognition that women's participation is closely linked to the success of schemes, has lead to a strong emphasis on involving women in WSS provision. However, from the significant experience of involving women in community based WSS, it is evident that: . Promotion of women's participation has often led to an increase in their workload without any compensation for their time. . Women are often expected to participate voluntarily whereas men tend to be paid. . Women are main users of water for productive purposes. . Women's roles have been largely as providers of labour and recipients of health education, while men dominate decision-making, technical and managerial positions. . A failure to consult women from early stages of planning and design often results in the non-use of services and by-passing of women's needs in later stages. . Women are strongly underrepresented in higher levels of formal political institutions, making it difficult for women's concerns to be heard in planning for community-based services such as WSS. . Water committees often do not meet their quota of women representatives. Where women are represented, they tend to be passive due to domination by male committee members, which limits their participation. The challenge is how to make participation in WSS more empowering for women. Greater efforts should be made to bring gender considerations into all stages of programme planning and policy making. This will not only benefit women but will also lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness of WSS projects. It is recommended to: . Consider gender issues (by gender specialists) at strategic points in time, these being project identification, formulation of project documents, evaluations and sector reviews. . Take care not to involve women in ways that increase their workload and/or financial burden. Match new WSS responsibilities taken on by women with gains in income or status. . Use training manuals to increase attention given to ways of and constraints to involving women in WSS. . Carefully consider how successful projects have been in empowering women in evaluations. . Recognise women as users of water for productive as well as domestic consumption in water use policy. . Provide training in leadership skills, confidence building and communication for women involved in water committees. . Set out a time frame, budget and training component for the increased participation of women in managerial, technical and decision-making positions in project documents. . Make planning meetings and training more accessible to women through recognition of constraints on their time and mobility.