Mainstreaming gender in water, sanitation service provision

DEVELOPMENT is defined in various ways. In simple terms, it can also be defined as the movement from a simple or worse situation to a sophisticated and better situation. In defining development, it is also vital to include the human element, which includes analysing gender in order to assess the particular needs of both men and women.
Water and sanitation is one sector which brings to the fore the acute need to consider gender perspectives.
The importance of involving both women and men in the management of water and sanitation has been recognised at the global level, starting from the 1977 United Nations Water Conference at Mar del Plata, the International Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade (1981-90) and the International Conference on Water and the Environment in Dublin (January 1992), which explicitly recognises the central role of women in the provision, management and safeguarding of water. Think about why the role of women is highlighted in Principle No.3 of the Dublin principles.
Global water and sanitation practitioners have long recognised the importance of incorporating a gender perspective based, among others, on the following observations:
Women and girls are most often the primary users, providers and managers of water in their households and are the guardians of household hygiene. In some rural and urban townships, women are the ones forced to travel long distances to meet their families’ water needs.
Conversely, women and girls benefit most when services are improved. In eastern Uganda research found that women spend an average of 660 hours per year collecting water for their households, which represents two full months of labour. Cumulatively, one estimate suggests that some 40 billion hours a year are spent collecting water in sub-Saharan Africa.
In poor families, sanitation and hygiene improvements are often low on the list of priority family investments, and women and girls suffer more indignity as a result. Their privacy and security are partly determined by ease of access to, and location of sanitation facilities. Children, have needs and concerns that should be taken into account when creating sanitation interventions to be used by them.
In primary schools, toilets are often inadequate to serve the needs of girls, resulting in non-attendance during menses. Conversely, school enrolment and retention of girls, increases where there are water and sanitation services. Using a gender lens can ensure that sanitation services are given priority by decision-makers and technology is tailored to meet their needs.
Studies reveal that providing physically accessible clean water is essential for enabling women and girls to devote more time to the pursuit of education and income-generation activities.
The World Bank has implemented various projects in water supply and sanitation aimed at reducing the “burden of girls who were traditionally involved in fetching water” in order to improve their school attendance. An evaluation of the projects shows that there is a correlation between convenient access to water and accessibility. For example, in Morocco, a World Bank report (2003) reveals that in six provinces where the project was implemented, it was found that girls’ school attendance increased by 20 percent in four years, attributed in part to the fact that girls spent less time fetching water. At the same time, convenient access to safe water reduced time spent collecting water by women and young girls by 50 to 90 percent.
Lusaka Water Supply and Sanitation Company (LWSC), has adopted this approach by mainstreaming gender in its operations and project implementation. This stems from the development of a gender policy which informs the corporate strategy.
The gender policy, which was developed with support from Millennium Challenge Account Zambia (MCAZ) or the “Millennium Challenge Project” was launched in 2018.
“We shall integrate a holistic approach to service delivery that considers accessibility, affordability and sustainability of services to meet the specific needs of women and men as well as vulnerable groups,” managing director, Jonathan Kampata’s foreword to the policy reads.
This policy manifests itself through the footprint of the Lusaka Sanitation Programme (LSP), which is constructing 100 public toilets in schools, clinics and markets. In addition, the project is also constructing 5,500 toilets in George, Kanyama and Chawama compounds. The designs of these facilities take into account the specific needs women, men, girls, boys and the disabled.
Further, LWSC is implementing various projects in peri-urban areas aimed at improving access to clean water. This will reduce the distance covered by women and girls when fetching water. Most importantly, the utility is working towards ensuring that each household has a water connection.
In John Laing township, LWSC is implementing a water supply improvement project with support from Water and Sanitation for the Poor (WSUP). This will see the construction of 1,000 individual household water connections and 10 closed kiosks to benefit 65,000 residents of the area at a cost of us US$547,000.
Through this project, the utility is implementating the social connection action plan. LWSC is providing micro financing to enable more residents to access water connections. This is all in an effort to ensure that more households have easy access to clean drinking water and reducing the burden on girls and women.
As we commemorate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, which runs every year from November 25 to December 10, know that you have a partner in LWSC.
The author is Lusaka Water Supply and Sanitation Company public relations specialist.

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