March 2018: CowaterSogema’s Gender Statement: From a Water & Sanitation Perspective

The Water, Sanitation and Environment (WSE) Division at Cowater International is an award-winning leader in water resources management having implemented studies to improve water governance and sectoral monitoring and evaluation in Africa and Asia, over 100 water supply and sanitation projects in more than 30 countries, contributing to economic growth in urban, peri-urban and rural settings in developing countries. Our work is also focused on supporting developing countries to adapt to the existing and foreseen impacts of climate change.

Using a demand-responsive and participatory approach, WSE works closely with local governments, communities, and other stakeholders to build capacity at the international, national and local levels and identify integrated solutions that promote consensus on the social, economic and physical environment. In every project, the WSE Division recognizes the strong linkages between access to water, sanitation and hygiene, and gender equality. In this effort, the WSE Division acknowledges that:

  • Women are more affected from the inadequate access to sanitation and hygiene, as they are often faced with additional challenges related to menstrual hygiene, personal safety, sexual harassments and violence;
  • Women are more affected from climate change impacts, as water borne diseases that are caused through flooding and poor sanitation have greater impact on women and children than men;
  • Women are over-represented in economic activities that are dependent on natural resources that are more sensitive to both climate and disaster risks;
  • Women are more affected from lack of access to water as they play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water and spend significantly more time acquiring water than men and boys, which in turn can deprive them of fully contributing to agricultural production, food security and business opportunities.

The WSE Division applies the Canadian Institutes of Health Research definition of gender which reads as follows: “Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually conceptualized as a binary (girl/woman and boy/man) yet there is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience, and express it.”

WSE believes that the integration of gender equality concerns in water and sanitation services goes beyond equal opportunity; it requires the transformation of the basic rules, hierarchies and practices of public institutions. We are committed to educate ourselves on the topic and to keeping our knowledge up-to-date about new approaches and developments. We share this knowledge with our local partners so that, together, we are enabled to adequately address gender issues in our activities.

Recognizing, understanding and addressing gender dimensions within water and sanitation projects promotes human rights and can lead to increased household welfare, improved health, increased gender equality and environmental sustainability in a context of climate change. WSE has an important role to promote gender mainstreaming in water, sanitation and environmental projects, and to support active participation of women in the planning, design, implementation, and monitoring of interventions.

In that sense, we believe access to safe drinking water and sanitation along with ensuring sustainable use of water resources in a context of climate change are central to women development and sustainable livelihoods. The consolidation and implementation of integrated water management is necessary to achieve improvements in crucial priorities such as water efficiency, which is a growing concern in the context of adaptation to climate change and water scarcity.