Gender and Water Alliance

Gender roles are critical to success of Water for African Cities programme

By Ms. Jeanne Bushayija, GWA-UNHabitat Francophone Programme Coordinator, Source Bulletin May 2008

In 1999, UN-HABITAT initiated the Water for African Cities (WAC) Programme, to support 17 cities to tackle the urban water crisis and improve the water and sanitation management. During the last 50 years cities in Africa have seen explosive population growth, with water and sanitation infrastructure lagging behind. Millions of people suffer from seriously unhygienic conditions, while trying to survive with unreliable water supply and sometimes no toilets at all.

It was agreed that only by including gender and involving all stakeholders, would poor people have a chance of getting access to WATSAN facilities and would environmentally sustainable solutions be possible. With the launch of phase II in 2003, the Gender and Water Alliance started activities to mainstream gender into the WAC programme by conducting participatory Rapid Gender Assessments (RGAs) in all 17 pilot cities. In every city the GWA recruited a local facilitator who worked in partnership with municipalities, UN-HABITAT staff, and local water and sewage authorities to shed light on the needs and interests of poor and vulnerable people, women, men, youth and the physically impaired. Groups would walk through cities and slums, asking people’s opinions, visit utilities, and collect gender disaggregated data.

Link with local power relations

As well as reporting on the status of gender aspects of access water and sanitation facilities, and the (lack of) gender balance in institutions, the RGAs revealed the need in all cities for improved and gender-appropriate water and sanitation facilities at home and in schools. RGAs also paid attention to locally specific gender issues and power relationships. “The municipality in Harar (Ethiopia) employs 150 street cleaners, most of them female. Being informal settlers living in slums, they do not have the right to use the formal sanitation services. They are left to find their own places for defecation and to search for their daily water needs.”

Another interesting conclusion noted that: “ illustration and messages found in textbooks focus on the traditional roles of boys, girls, men and women perpetuating the gender roles that have kept women in poverty and relegated women and girls to the background.”

The assessments resulted in local actors becoming aware of gender issues, participatory approaches and the need for collective action in mainstreaming of gender in water and sanitation delivery services.

Cities Involved
    • Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire;
    • Accra, Ghana;
    • Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Harar, Ethiopia;
    • Bamako, Mali;
    • Dakar, Senegal;
    • Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania;
    • Douala and Yaoundé in Cameroon;
    • Jos, Nigeria;
    • Kampala, Uganda;
    • Kigali, Rwanda;
    • Lusaka, Zambia;
    • Maputo, Mozambique;
    • Nairobi, Kenya; and
    • Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

      Expert group devises strategy and action plans

      In 2005, GWA facilitators and over 50 urban water and sanitation functionaries from the 17 cities discussed the RGA findings at an expert group meeting on gender mainstreaming, and devised ways to integrate recommendations into Gender Mainstreaming Strategy Frameworks and Action Plans.

      After the workshop, two GWA consultants analysed the frameworks and plans in a number of cities. Mainstreaming gender, they concluded, should not be an exercise of adding ‘correct’ language to documents, but a real process of capacity building of women and men involved in implementation. One of the main recommendations stressed the need for specific gender training for UN-Habitat and water professionals on how to ‘engender’ programmes and projects as well as to understand the importance of sex-disaggregated data collection and gender-sensitive monitoring.

      Gender training workshops

      In 2007, GWA with UN-HABITAT, Ministries for Water and other stakeholders, organised gender training workshops in most WAC cities for people involved in decision making processes in water and sanitation management, those in charge of gender integration in national Water Ministries and people locally employed in the WAC programme. Participants recognised that changes were required in Cooperative Agreements (CAs) between Municipalities and UN-Habitat to include the different interests of women and men and especially to take into account the needs of vulnerable groups. GWA facilitators were asked to review and revise CAs in their respective cities and to design a gender sensitive monitoring and evaluation system for the WAC programme.

      The current situation differs from city to city. Some are seriously implementing gender issues, while others still have to sign CAs or to conduct their first gender training for stakeholders. In general, the GWA contribution was appreciated and stakeholders in the WAC cities are keen to participate in more gender and water training to strengthen their expertise in this field.

      Realisatie door Four Digits op basis van Plone.