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Workshop on Gender and Water Services

Published on: 17/10/2014

On the 14th and 15th of October 2014, a workshop on gender and female participation in water service provision was organized by CARE International and IRC Burkina Faso in Dori, Burkina Faso, as part of the USAID-funded West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Initiative (WA-WASH) programme. The workshop focused on the involvement of women in the provision and management of water points as a solution to ensure the sustainability of water services throughout Burkina Faso.

In Burkina Faso's largely rural society, women often carry the sole responsibility of finding and fetching water for their families. Although water is clearly a highly gendered topic in Burkina Faso, women in rural areas are rarely consulted about any decisions concerning water, such as the localization of new hand pumps or the affordability of services. However, not only can access to water do a lot for the well-being of women, it is important to realize that women can do a lot for the sustainability of water services too.

Indeed, a study by the World Bank and IRC found that water and sanitation projects designed and run with the full participation of women are more sustainable and effective than those that do not. Yet, an even more recent study carried out by CARE International, with support of IRC, demonstrated that persisting gender roles pose a major obstacle to the participation of women in Burkina Faso's Sahel region.

In order to address this issue, a two-day workshop was jointly organized on the 14th and 15th of October in Burkina Faso's Sahel capital, Dori. The workshop aimed to present and open up dialogue on the results of the study, which examined the empowerment and contribution of women to the durability of WASH services, and was carried out in 18 communities throughout Burkina Faso and Ghana. Four of these communities are located within the Sahel municipalities of Gorgadji and Arbinda, which receive technical assistance from IRC for the development and implementation of improved models for sustainability, as part of the WA-WASH programme.

The results depict a clear picture of the current local water situation, as well as the gender roles that exist in relation to water, in aspects such as water provision, usage, and payment. Broadly, the study demonstrates how the current gender structures in society are a major obstacle to the sustainability of water interventions and services, and therefore calls for an environment that allows for a greater involvement of women. However, even there where women occupy decision-making positions, such as through membership of water user associations, the study demonstrated that most women face a roadblock when it comes to truly participating and voicing an opinion. The main obstacle that women face is the clash their leadership position poses with their traditional role in a male-dominated society, where women are not always considered to be apt for influencing or making decisions, neither at the household level, nor at the societal level.

The event was attended by a range of local male and female actors, such as the mayor of each municipality, the municipal water and sanitation council members, the local technicians that are assisted by IRC, and the water user association members. Throughout the event, the benefits that women's participation in decision-making and management will bring to the entire society were highlighted, covering aspects ranging from health, to gender equality, to poverty reduction. Ample time for discussion and group work was provided during the workshop, in which both municipalities brainstormed on measures that will enable women to contribute to the decision-making process and the management of water services. Special emphasis was placed on the role of women in water user associations, including the problems that current female members are facing, as well as proposals for specific actions that will allow for better circumstances for women, and in turn, an improved sustainability of water services.

The relevant power point presentations presented during the workshop can be found listed below, to be followed by the report on gender and water services as soon as the final report becomes available.