Mainstreaming gender to make water projects work better

Mainstreaming gender to make water projects work better

Many water schemes fail because women aren’t consulted or considered at the project preparation stage, meaning the final design does not meet the needs and expectations of female beneficiaries. To help address this problem, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) recently hosted a ‘Gender Clinic’ – funded by the German development agency, GIZ, and organised and moderated by Global Water Partnership Southern Africa. CRIDF provided support in developing the concept note and programme for the event.

Increasingly, donors and financiers require robust analyses and actions plans with a practical approach to gender equality, women’s empowerment and social inclusion issues in water project preparation processes. The objective of SADC’s Gender Clinic on Project Preparation and Financing in the Water Sector was therefore to create a platform for financiers, project funders, developers and implementers to discuss practical issues with regards to gender mainstreaming during project preparation and mobilising financing processes.

Held on 25 March 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Clinic provided an opportunity to collectively discuss challenges, find solutions and identify relevant tools for mainstreaming gender.

The Clinic was the latest in a series of knowledge-sharing events on gender mainstreaming in SADC’s water sector. These events have primarily targeted Gender Focal Points (GFPs) within the SADC water ministries, meaning this was the first event to open up participation to a much wider range of stakeholders: representatives of donor agencies such as AfDB, USAID and DBSA, research institutions, and development programmes and partners such as WaterAid and Solidaridad. CRIDF supported SADC in identifying and inviting these participants, drawing on established relationships with donors and water practitioners.

The premise behind the Gender Clinic was that considering the needs of women and other vulnerable groups – as the primary users, managers and collectors of water – is central to making a project sustainable and fit for purpose. To this end, CRIDF‘s Team Leader, Dr Charles Reeve, presented CRIDF’s toolkit on gender equality and social inclusion – a practical tool for preparing inclusive water projects.

Dr Reeve described how the CRIDF toolkit has evolved, based on best practice approaches and feedback from frontline staff, and how its application in CRIDF’s project preparation process has resulted in tangible design changes to many projects that have enhanced benefits for specific social groups such as adolescent girls and female water kiosk managers.

One of the key takeaways from the Clinic was an honest and open reflection on how hard it is to identify and address gender issues in project design and implementation processes. There was also an acknowledgement that gender mainstreaming is too often viewed as an optional extra or tick box exercise. Participants voiced the need for systematic steps and guidance for sociologists and gender experts on what should be done prior to, during and after field work to ensure gender issues are adequately understood and addressed in project designs. CRIDF’s gender toolkit is a key resource that can support this need  – as shown in this video.

Funding for these gender workshops has come to an end, but CRIDF intends to continue these discussions and contribute to SADC’s growing community of practice on gender and water issues. To this end, CRIDF, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and IMWI are planning a follow-up event on 25 June this year, held at the DBSA, that will build on the outcomes and learnings from the Clinic.