In the first week of August, a workshop was held in Quito on the topic of gender and water to discuss the Governance of the Water and Sanitation (watsan) Sector Program in Ecuador. The workshop concluded with the development of provincial and individual action plans, which is the theme of this fifth post on gender and water. The main workshop participants consisted of four technicians from national ministries and twelve other people committed to gender rights from the Program’s four provinces.
The planning exercise followed a results-based approach as the core of the project cycle. This planning method consisted of: 1) Identifying problems; 2) Formulating “smart” objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound); 3) Defining the expected results that lead to achieving such objectives; 4) Devising the indicators for measuring achievements and failures; 5) Planning the activities that lead to obtaining the expected results; and 6) Considering the conditions that need to be in place.
The action plans developed during the workshop helped participants acquire well-structured arguments and critical understanding of gender issues in the watsan sector. This will assist the participants in integrating a gender-focused approach in the watsan-related decision making processes in their provinces. The role of the government officials at the workshop is to help the Program obtain the predefined gender results in their provinces and within the national ministries. The action plans had to have a direct link to such results.
The first part was mapping four communities, one from each province, and their watsan systems. This exercise included drawing maps of their settlements, defining the watsan-related roles of men, women, and children both within the household and within the watsan utilities. This exercise concluded with a collective debate and analysis of the four maps.
The main visible result of the analysis was that women and girls bore all watsan-related responsibilities within the household, while all decision-making roles within utilities were in the hands of men. For instance, in practically all households, women and girls are responsible for water fetching, cooking, cleaning and health care, while the presidents and operators of the watsan utilities are all men. Participants had to question why women, who have a stronger relation to water and sanitation than men, do not participate in decision-making processes in the watsan utilities.
The next activity was identifying and prioritizing gender-related watsan problems in their local communities. These problems were characterized as gender breaches in the watsan sector that need to be resolved in order to achieve the watsan Program’s general objective. The workshop participants prioritized three breaches that cause problems for women and children particularly:
1. Gender Breach: Water Pollution
Problem: Deterioration of Women and Girls’ Health
2. Gender Breach: Lack of Toilets at Home
Problem: Insecurity and Deterioration of Women and Girls’ Health
3. Gender Breach: Patriarchal Utility Management
Problem: Authoritarianism and Corruption
These three breaches determined the objectives of all the action plans. One of the provincial action plans is as follows:
Objective: Reduction of diseases specific to women related to polluted water in the community.
Expected Result: All women in the community have access to safe water.
Indicator: Significant decrease in diseases specific to women caused by polluted water by the end of the program. In order to measure achievements, the program will need a baseline survey on water-related health problems for women and set a numeric improvement target to be achieved by the end of the program.
Activities: Capacity-building for the community women looking after water sources and for using water at home in a safe manner; helping the community-run water utility (JAAP) structure its management systems according to the law and building capacities in its staff with a gender focus; help organize the community in order to make more effective claims to local government bodies in compliance to the current legislation and the sector’s national policy.
As it was found previous to the workshop, the lack of adequate sanitation, identified as the second gender breach, poses serious health and security problems to women. The Gender and Water Alliance (GWA) has also developed theory on how corruption in the provision of watsan services has serious implications for and roots in gender relations.
This plan, the other provincial plans, and the individual plans are currently being structured and written in digital format by the GWA consultants. In the next post, I will explain how the workshop participants enter the Program’s provincial decision-making platforms and start implementing their individual plans.
Jordi Sánchez-Cuenca is a Spanish urban planner, trained in Barcelona’s School of Architecture and London’s Development Planning Unit. He has work experience in the private, public, academic and NGO sector in Barcelona, Hanoi, Ghana and several cities in India, and he is currently working for UN-HABITAT in Quito, Ecuador, in a governance of the water and sanitation sector programme.