“Sometimes we drink rainwater, other times water from the pond,” says Masuma Begum. “We boil it if we can but don’t always have time. There is no deep tube well near our home, no pipe water, no other options for us. My children are often sick and weak. We are too poor to invest in a well.”
higher risk of GBV while walking long distances to secure water and using remote and unsafe sanitation facilities. Families lacking safe drinking water fall ill more often, and the responsibility of caring for sick family members falls on women too. Additionally, the lack of secure gender-segregated toilets in schools, health care facilities, markets and workplaces limits women’s access to these services makes it a challenge for women and girls to access services.Women and girls bear 90 percent of the responsibility of collecting water in Bangladesh. Studies from some countries find that the lack of WASH facilities in or in proximity to homes, coupled with social norms that justify gender-based violence (GBV), exposes females to
Women’s voice in water governance is critical for inclusive policies that benefit both women and men and support the sustainability of water resources
23 percent of women use appropriate menstrual materials. Social misunderstanding about menstruation causes other complications and restrictions.Only
Secondly, women’s WASH-related decision-making is low as their participation in water governance is constrained by a range of factors. WASH-related decision-making is dominated by men. In southwest Bangladesh, women constitute only 20 percent of representatives in water management organizations, and none in positions such as president or treasurer. They either do not attend meetings, and when they do, they tend to sit in the back and speak less than men, because they don’t think their opinion matters, they are afraid to make mistakes and they don’t want to undermine male family members.
Women’s employment in WASH also remains low. A recent World Bank report “Women in Water Utilities: Breaking Barriers, finds that women comprise only 6percent of employees in water and sanitation utilities in Bangladesh. Even fewer women work as entrepreneurs. Female-owned enterprises are more likely than their male counterparts to be small, informal, and home-based. Women face greater challenge accessing finance, markets, technology, and networks. In Bangladesh, 60.2 percent of Bangladeshi female entrepreneurs’ say demand for finance is unmet.
A New Pathway
Issues of water scarcity are gaining increased attention in global debates. human capital and on issues of concern to women such as access to clean drinking water, and water control and harvesting. Studies find that women’s participation in water user associations results in better enforcement of rules, collection of fees, and conflict management and resolution. There is also some evidence that marginalized women find it easier to approach female decision-makers than their male counterparts if they are facing issues related to water.Women’s voice in water governance is critical for inclusive policies that benefit both women and men and support the sustainability of water resources. Women play critical roles in influencing the ways in which households and communities use and conserve water. As decision-makers, women often invest more in
To address gender inequalities in the WASH sector, the Government of Bangladesh and the World initiated, the Bangladesh Rural WASH for Human Capital Development. The project will empower women and girls like Masuma by providing improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene services in 78 rural sub-districts in Bangladesh.
It will also sensitize women on the importance of ‘safely managed’ WASH facilities and educate them on menstrual hygiene through credit group sessions and home visits by local entrepreneurs. This will help shift WASH decision-making from men in town markets to women in homes.
Insights gained from The Rising Tide: A New Look at Water and Gender show that access to vital resources is more critical than ever, but the question remains, how do we bring all stakeholders together.