GENDER IN THE WATER SECTOR IN UGANDA
Table of Contents
Both men and women play substantial, though different roles in Uganda ’s economy and households. But despite this, gender inequalities persist in all dimensions of life. The water and sector is not exceptional. The constitution of Uganda (1995) guarantees equality between women and men and also prescribes temporary affirmative action in favour of women for purposes of redressing imbalances created by history, tradition and other factors. It is also a signatory to various International commitments and it has a gender policy (2007) which provides for a framework for gender responsive development. Despite all the above actions and interventions that have been undertaken by both the Ugandan Government and development stakeholders, not much has been achieved.
Why the persistence?
Uganda has a fast growing population. According to the 2012 Statistical Absract, the Ugandan population is projected to have increased to 34.1 million by mid 2012 http://www.ubos.org/index.php?st=pagerelations2&id=31, More than half of the population, that is 51%, are female. Uganda, however, like most African countries, is a patriarchal society, with men dominating all sectors and spheres of life, which has negatively affected the inclusion of women in the development process.
In the Water Sector, according to the Water and Sanitation Gender Strategy http://www.mwe.go.ug/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=134&Itemid=150, women are the major water collectors, users and managers of water in households and are the major promoters of household and community sanitation activities. However, they bear the impact of inadequate, deficient or inappropriate water and sanitation services. One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that women are excluded in the area of planning and decision-making regarding water and sanitation development, therefore women’s views are often under-represented, implying that their practical and strategic needs are not addressed. For example, according to the statistics from the Ministry of Water and Environmenthttp://www.wsscc.org/resources/resource-publications/water-and-environmental-sector-performance-report-2009, female representation in top and senior management within the Ministry of Water and Environment is 19%. The majority of employees in technical positions (engineering) are male, while the majority of the support staff (social scientists, secretaries, office attendants and cleaners) who do not have much impact on decision-making are female.
In the Ministry of Water and Environment, progress in the achievement of the water and sanitation goals is set against a set of performance and outcome indicators. These indicators include one on gender (number of women in key positions on water user committees/water boards). This indicator is meant to ensure the fair representation of men and women in decision-making positions in water and sanitation concerns. A key position refers to the position of chairperson, vice chairperson, secretary and treasurer. Nationally, 85% of Water user committees had a woman in a key position in 2010.http://www.mwe.go.ug/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&Itemid=0&gid=62 This might seem great progress but in reality women face a number of challenges to participate and these are as listed below:
- Illiteracy, which leads to an inferiority complex and renders decision-making difficult.
- Domestic obligations: women have limited time to participate in water and sanitation activities.
- Inadequate sensitisation of communities on their roles and rights in regards to water and sanitation.
- Cultural, which render women subordinate: therefore are not taken seriously by the community members, especially when it comes to enforcement of bye laws.
The gender division of labour has also affected the ability of women to fully participate in water and sanitation activities. In Uganda, because of culture, people especially in the rural areas, which account for 85%http://www.ubos.org/onlinefiles/uploads/ubos/pdf%20documents/Popn_T2_2011.pdf of Uganda’s population, believe that women have only a reproductive role. This perception has contributed to the persistance of women’s constraints in access to and control of resources such as land. In 2009, only 20 percent of registered land belonged to womenUnited Nations Development Programme, 2007, “Uganda Human Development Report”. This affects women’s participation in that because they lack land, they have to rely on men to make major decisions such as the allocation of water sources, decisions that women would have been better placed to make since they have an intimate knowledge of water sources.
In order to effectively increase the participation of women in the decision-making and planning arena in the water and sanitation:
- There is a need to emphasize a special approach on girls’ education, especially in technical aspects, as access to education is not enough to ensure increased women’s participation. This will help in increasing women’s presence in “male dominated” professions.
- Women need to be empowered economically to enable them participate in water provision, income generation and confidence building.
- There is also a need to develop gender indicators which are more informative and that will provide more information on the actual issues affecting women. Government and stakeholders need to build capacity of staff on gender disaggregated data.
- There is a need for trainings programmes targeting women to enable women to take the lead and manage water programmes. This will promote sustainability of water supply systems as women are more concerned with water. Women should be trained in technologies that will help them in operations and maintenance of water sources in case of breakdown so that they do not have to rely on men alone.
- Lastly, there is a need to promote the mainstreaming of gender in all aspects of water and sanitation activities. This will ensure that the whole community is involved in the water and sanitation programme right from its onset and therefore create a sense of ownership which is very essential in the sustainability of any development programme.
To optimise development results, it is important that there is equity in access to all opportunities and control of resources. Sustained gender discrimination shackles any economy http://www.dandc.eu/articles/054033/index.en.shtml, therefore promotion of women should be diverse. Women need better access to land, water and other resources. Women constitute more than 51% of the Ugandan population. It is important that they have equal access to resources and opportunities if the country is to realise the full potential of its human resource. This will help in measuring achievements made and set targets for the future.
- Gender inequality, social institutions and the Millennium Development Goalss
- Gender differences in household consumption
- Women's Access to Land in sub-Saharan Women and African Economic Development