A practical guide to overcome the jargon between gender experts and water practitioners

Figure 1  Pump mechanic Dalia Soda at one of the boreholes she maintains in the village of Nzeremu, Salima District, Malawi, June 2016. (© WaterAid / Alexia Webster)

Women’s empowerment through rural water supply activities: A practical guide by and for practitioners of the Rural Water Supply Network combines inputs and examples from engineers with the language and expertise from gender experts, and aims to bridge between those two worlds. The guide is the result of a co-creation process with RWSN members (e-workshop, e-discussion, editing of the draft) and a consultation with gender experts throughout the process to ensure the final product balances both the key concepts and jargon from gender experts, as well as inputs and needs from practitioners. The guide is now available in English, French and Spanish.

A guide for whom?

This practical guide has been designed by and for practitioners working in the rural water sector – civil society, public and private sectors. It is addressed to water practitioners to whom women’s empowerment is a new topic, as well as to those who would like to compare their current activities with the recommendations of the guide. The guide aims to provide water specialists language and knowledge on how best to work with gender experts to build more transformative activities. Women’s empowerment as a component of WASH interventions should be both a cause and an outcome of successful gender-sensitive WASH programs. Empowerment, therefore, should be a strategic objective in itself with targeted activities, instruments, and monitoring tools. It should not be treated as a bonus activity to increase the sustainability or effectiveness of systems, thus making women instruments of the process.

A practical How-to-do

The guide is a “How-to-do” concise and practical, to be applied in the local context. The guide goes through the five factors of empowerment (access to information; participation; engagement & inclusiveness; power dynamics & structures; capacity-building), as well as throughout the stages of activities (identification, design, monitoring & evaluation, reporting). Checklists for each activity stage have been prepared to make it as practical as possible. The guide is also a “How-not-to-do”: As rural water practitioners, we often come across ‘myths’ – widely held but false beliefs and ideas about women’s empowerment. The guide presents several myths related to each empowerment factor and deconstruct them. Watch out for these ‘myths’ and support your wider team and colleagues to become aware of them too.

Figure 2 Checklist of design stage

The document is enriched by many concrete examples. For instance, the importance of exploring existing structures and power dynamics is illustrated by an example of Nepal with the use of existing mothers groups for rainwater harvesting, and the one of traditional women musical groups and women farmer’s groups in South Sudan.

Have we missed something?

This guide is one contribution from RWSN towards women’s empowerment in the water sector. As a global network of rural water supply professionals and organisations committed to improving their knowledge, competence and professionalism, RWSN will not stop here; the guide will be accompanied by ongoing dialogue and activities for the members of the network, so stay tuned! Do you have questions on any of the aspects raised in the guide? Get in touch with the RWSN Secretariat or join the RWSN Leave No-one Behind community (https://dgroups.org/rwsn/leave-no-one_rwsn) and help us revise and improve the document.

>>> Click here to download the guide <<<