At a recent workshop, CRIDF brought together diverse voices from across Zambia’s gender and water sectors to share experiences with tools and approaches that enhance women’s ability to access, control and make better use of the country’s water resources.
Held in Lusaka on 4–5 March, the workshop was jointly coordinated with Zambia’s Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, in recognition of the country’s growing community of practice on water and gender.
Deviating from previous water sector dialogues, where gender discussions have usually been confined to shorter slots within broader regional meetings, this workshop dedicated a day and a half to the theoretical aspects of gender analysis along with practical guidance on fieldwork approaches.
Initial discussions focused on the progress made by the Government of Zambia, commercial utilities and development partners, and the plethora of new resources – such as gender, equality and social inclusion (GESI) tools, checklists and baseline studies – that are now available to help water programmes address gender issues.
However, ongoing challenges were also a source of concern. There continues to be, it was argued, a lack of clear communication mechanisms and standardised GESI tools – meaning that reporting and tracking progress on gender and inclusion initiatives in the water sector remain inconsistent. It was agreed that the Government needs to do more to involve NGOs, civil society and the media in broader national processes.
Budgets and capacity constraints are an additional problem. In Zambia, for instance, although the country has a strong enabling environment – including gender focal points in several ministries and supportive policies and strategies – limited funding and knowledge gaps mean that this progress has still not translated into significant tangible actions and processes.
Discussing the benefits of CRIDF’s GESI Toolkit
The workshop provided an opportunity to introduce CRIDF’s GESI Toolkit. The Toolkit is a practical resource that integrates gender into all stages of a project cycle, draws upon practical experience and is informed by two Southern African Development Community (SADC) guides, the SADC Handbook on Mainstreaming Gender in the Water Sector and the SADC Gender Mainstreaming Resource Kit.
Although the GESI Toolkit had been presented at several previous national and regional events, feedback from water sector practitioners suggested the need for enhanced guidance, information dissemination and capacity strengthening to increase its adoption. At the Lusaka workshop, to encourage uptake, the Toolkit was applied to relatable Zambian case studies through a series of groupwork activities.
A Q&A session covered several practical considerations, including how the GESI Toolkit should be filled out and at what point during the project preparation process it should be applied. The session also provided a valuable learning experience, offering feedback to enhance the Toolkit’s application and broader uptake. For instance, participants suggested that field feasibility visits could be organised by sociologists with experience using the Toolkit, who could provide hands-on guidance and build capacity in anticipation of its application by other water sector stakeholders.
Looking to the future
While participants could look back on recent progress, the workshop acknowledged there was still considerable work that needed to be done to ensure gender was sufficiently mainstreamed across Zambia’s water sector.
Looking to the future, several plans were discussed: building regional networks to improve information, knowledge and skill sharing, and mobilising funds to support these networks; providing additional clarity on harmonised reporting levels to avoid the duplication of efforts; and incorporating gender as a thematic area of reporting within the Water Ministry’s three existing working groups on Water Supply and Sanitation, Water Resources Management and Development, and Environmental Protection.
Participants included representatives from the Government of Zambia (Ministries of Planning, Finance and Gender); Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor; National Water Supply and Sanitation Council; World Vision; Water Aid; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH; Resilient Water; Commercial utilities; and the media.