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TitleSeen but not heard? A review of the effectiveness of gender approaches in water and sanitation service provision
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsAppave, J, Khadka, A, Humagain, B
Pagination40 p.; ill.; 5 refs; 13 photographs, 1 tab.
Date Published2009-07-01
Place PublishedKathmandu, Nepal
Keywordsdrinking water, gender, nepal, rural areas

There is global and national recognition of the importance of involving both men and women in the management of water and sanitation services. Women are the main users and managers of water systems, using water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, care of domestic animals and productive activities. However, concerted efforts are required to include women in the management of water resources. Access to improved water services has a large impact on women, providing them more time for leisure, care giving, personal improvement and income generation activities. Likewise, access to sanitation facilities helps to improve health and increases privacy and safety for women and girls and contributes to regular attendance at school. Participation is commonly accepted as a process that is important and necessary in the rural water and sanitation sector, and strongly associated with project efficiency. Many sector stakeholders have recognised the need to ensure women's participation, but there is a lack of qualitative data that measures how effective these measures have been. This study aims to address this gap by looking at what impact gender approaches to include women and men has had on their meaningful participation. WAN's rural partner, NEWAH, has been a key influential agency in the drinking water and sanitation sector in addressing gender inequity and exclusion. The evolution of its Gender and Poverty (GAP) approach to a Gender and Social Inclusion (GSI) approach challenges the many obstacles that limit the degree of participation women and excluded groups face in programme activities. NEWAH policies of affirmative action, financial support for poorest households and gender awareness training have promoted greater equality in accessing resources and services. NEWAH's promotion of gender balanced and socially inclusive user management committees have been instrumental in ensuring excluded social groups' representation on these committees. Participation in project activities has helped increase exposure and foster greater selfconfidence.
However, while there has been an increase in women's participation, it has been limited in decision-making processes. Low literacy level or numeracy skills, lack of self-confidence and social norms pose challenges to the effective participation of women and excluded groups and accountability issues. Despite the aims of participatory approaches to engage women and men in development that affects them directly, there remain barriers that restrict their ability to do so. Short-term training can only have a limited impact. Training can only be effective if the personal experiences and views of both men and women on gender are considered and explored and follow-up support is provided. Moreover, involving and focusing on women can marginalise gender as a women's issue. There is a need to develop men's skills in this area and bring their perspective into initiatives that aim to promote a participatory approach. In promoting an inclusive approach, it is also important to understand the community-level decision-making process and local social and political context. Only by engaging with men and women in constructive dialogue and supporting both capacity building and empowerment processes, can true participation be achieved on equal footing.

(authors abstract)

Custom 1202.1, 302.1



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