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TitleGender and the management of drinking water supply in low income urban communities in Latin America
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsEspejo, N.
Pagination9 p. : 3 tab.
Date Published1994-01-01
Keywordscommunity participation, gender, latin america, low-income communities, men, safe water supply, water management, women
Abstract

This report on gender and management of water supply in periurban settlements in Latin American cities is written in Spanish with a summary in English. Since the 1960s young, unmarried women form the majority of urban migrants to lowincome neighbourhoods and communities in these cities. These communities consist of old neighbourhoods with deteriorating housing, water supply, drainage and solid waste disposal and various new settlements ranging from those planned with services through to spontaneous settlements which lack all services. In these poor urban neighbourhoods, the state government and water department deal with general water policy and water resources management but they and municipal officials rarely have strategies for serving unplanned periurban settlements, where, if services exist, they are often based on short-term strategies driven by political interest. Constraints for implementation of WSS projects in periurban settlements include: lack of national policies, lack of coordination among various levels of urban government, lack of information on the urban WSS sector, planning difficulties in the periurban sector, poor motivation of local administrators, a narrow technical vision and conflicts between external support agencies and the local population. This vacuum in service provision is filled by organizations of people in the settlements themselves.
During the initial settlement, women locate and safeguard lots, struggle for water supply, drainage, light, food provision and transport; later, organized women's groups focus on health and nutrition. Women exert pressure for the establishment of WSS services, and, where not provided by the government, they must rely on private contractors or on commercial water vendors to fill the water supply gap. Because longterm strategies for supplying water are lacking, women are often squeezed out of a process which becomes increasingly politicized as opposing interest groups negotiate to protect their own interests and where issues such as appropriate technology, service level and management of the installed system are subordinated to the demand for any type of water supply.
Different forms of shortterm water supply exist in periurban settlements but these all have problems with regard to women. Buying water from small private vendors is the least satisfactory for cities and women due to high cost, low service level, poor quality and user exploitation when water is scarce. An ineffective temporary system to get women's votes is to install a water reservoir or public taps, but this service is seldom adequate. Even when authorities formulate strategies for community based water systems, local organizations, lacking a gender strategy, often leave women out of decision making and control. When community organizations initiate selfhelp schemes through external financiers or build a system through the private sector, local men and women seldom play a decisive role in planning and design since external technicians have other priorities than the community members. Where the community does have control over source and service, women, who are most directly concerned with water and have a great interest in reliable and good quality service, have the best opportunity for involvement in management. In initiating and constructing local systems, women sometimes break through culturally determined gender roles and participate in physical construction and in management organizations; for example, as organizers and managers of communal taps and sanitation facilities, of water vending, and of urban waste and recycling. However, often women adhere to genderdictated roles within water management organizations where they are involved as unpaid and unacknowledged standins for fathers and husbands. Because an explicit gender focus and strategies are lacking, the participation of women is at present more the result of spontaneous initiatives of the women themselves and does not lead to lasting changes in their conditions and status.
Recommendations for periurban water supply projects include: formulation of explicit gender strategies and recognition that for women water is a basic need, an instrument of power, a source of income through home production and communal services, and that there is both a source and service problem. A weak element of many urban water projects is building the capacity of communities and women for control over the establishment and management of the service. Projects need conscious strategies which focus on the support of women as well as men in management and leadership positions, education in water system management, and the recognition of the potential of local organizations for supplying water in periurban neighbourhoods.

NotesEnglish summary of: El enfoque de genero en el manejo de los sistemas de agua en zonas urbanas de bajos ingresos. - 21 ref.
Custom 1202.1
Original PublicationEl enfoque de genero en el manejo de los sistemas de agua en zonas urbanas de bajos ingresos

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