For the first time ever, with the adoption especially of SDG Target 6.3 ( “by 2030, …, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally”) water quality issues such as waste water (treatment and re-use of used water) has come to the attention of a broader public. Wastewater is not on top of the list when people talk about gender issues and water. But is wastewater gender neutral (as some key players seem to think)?
Women are more affected by the lack of wastewater treatment and responsible management than men. This ranges through all dimensions of sustainable development, both in the developing and developed world.
Women for a start are far more in contact with food and direct contact with feaces (child-care; health-care personally, domestically and professionally). The risk of contamination, when sanitation is not separated from human contact and even more so if hand-washing facilities, soap, are missing) is very high.
In a lot of big cities around the world waste collection by the local government is missing; most of the time it is local women’s organisations that take the initiative to do so with very little or no support (or even respect). However, their work prevents even more contamination of (ground) water and contamination risks.
Cleaning and emptying toilets is most of the time (unpaid) women’s work. Although some interesting initiatives have been set-up transferring this into structured, paid jobs in cities in the developing world, then the other “ old” issue turns up: they get paid less for this work than their male counterparts (if any).
One of the growing problems / concerns is the still growing amount of pesticides, hormones, medication, chemicals in waste water. This can have very nasty longer term effect on the health of people especially women (both older (osteoporosis) and pregnant (blue babies, miscarriages)).This may become an even bigger issue when considering reuse of used water e.g. for agricultural purposes, exposing again mainly women working in agricultural (70%) and affecting food-security (when not done expertly).
UNESCO-WWAP and the gender-taskforce proposed the following indicators:
- Percentage of households connected to sewerage or alternative means of water treatment (6.3);
- Percentages reported health-incidents/ impacts disaggregated by sex;
- Percentages of M/F in charge of waste and waste-water management.
It would be interesting to see if, when data on the proposed indicator are collected, there is a gender gap again – most likely so. Common knowledge indicates that especially female-headed households are not connected.
Waste (water) a gender and women’s issue? Absolutely. Needed: More sex-disaggregated data also on this issue, research on solutions for treatment, more women working in the sector, more respect and payment for the women who take over. Some recommendations and things to think about:
•Women in majority handle water and hence waste and wastewater
•clean up the “ shit” both domestically and in general
•Have little to say on how things are handled
•Are not getting paid generally for waste water management
•Feel the impact of bad management most in terms of health
•Emerging pollutants not measured on their (different) impact on men and women
•Address the lack of sex-disaggregated data on how men and women use utilities and access water/wastewater infrastructure
•to ensure that policy and investment decisions include a gender dimension
•Develop a robust business case for water/wastewater service providers
•showing the economic contribution that gender equality can make in terms of benefits recorded
•Capacity development for women on safe wastewater reuse is needed
•At grassroots levels, conversations and social marketing campaigns aiming to increase women participation in certain sectors, like waterwaste reuse and comparing industries, are needed and to be focused on the household and community-level.
•Increase awareness of private companies, utilities, and local government on the various added values of women’s involvement and vocational training for women.
•A gender-sensitive approach must be included in the management of water resources that enhances and strengthens the important role women play in the acquisition, conservation and use of water
•Women need to be included in decision-making of wastewater management and -services
•At national and local level, all government structures need to bring forward a gendered lens in policy decision making
•Provide effective voices to women in meaningful participation mechanisms
•Integral gender policies vary in each community but should integrate both women's and men's points of view
Support women to become leaders in the water sector by
•Applying Human resource and employment policies to women's work with wastewater as you would with any profession or career
•So By Including gender sensitive approaches in employment policies and decision making
•Adjust working conditions and atmosphere in such a way that it is encouraging for women to pursue a career – adhere to and implement the Women Empowerment Principles (UN)
•Recognize the (paid, unpaid and voluntary) work done by women
•and turn them into paid jobs
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•Equality is impossible without equal access to water and sanitation for all for all uses – so connect implementation of SDG6 and 5 (see inter alia Brief for HLPW and UN Water report)
•Implementation is “falling short” if not based on (sex-/ gender) disaggregated data (SDG 17.18); current practise – even if data are collected – leads to consolidation that “ignores” these type of data and analysis taking diversity into account is not really possible
•Gender mainstreaming - and stakeholder participation strategies are operationalized and implemented and not “just” depending on gender experts/ focal points
•Vocational training/ secondary education is/ should be accessible for and promoted especially for women in non-traditional areas(SDG 4.3)
•Adverse effects of targets of different SDGs towards each other are discussed and addressed (e.g. hydropower; sdg6 and 7; see also UN Water report)
•Governments should be more aware of existing tools and use of developed tools should be enhanced: inter alia Hydropower sustainability assessment protocol, water stewardship Standard, gender sensitive budgeting, …
•Mm, yes, women are 51% of the world population – you think you can do this without them?
•By know – we think and hope – people do understand the connection between provision of safe, gender-sensitive toilets for women’s health, education, work – so SDG 6.2
• Women are far more in contact with food and direct contact with feces (child-care; health-care personally, domestically and professionally). The risk of contamination is very high
•Cleaning and emptying toilets is most of the time (unpaid) women’s work
•growing amount of pesticides, hormones, medication, chemicals in waste water. This can have very nasty longer term effect on the health of people especially women (both older (osteoporosis) and pregnant (blue babies, miscarriages)).This may become an even bigger issue when considering reuse of used water e.g. for agricultural purposes, exposing again mainly women working in agricultural (70%) and affecting food-security (when not done expertly).
They “got” it already in 1992: Dublin principles, the Rio principles, Beijing plan for action / CEDAW. So why is it not hapening? 3.Women play a central role in the supply, management and safeguarding of water.
key role in water management
a place at the decision-making table (water governance)
We need an UN year on water and women to ensure promisses are implemented.