Mumbai: Safe Water Network, the internationally renowned NGO and USAID presented their insights on ‘Collaborative Action to Close the Gender Gap in WASH Workforce’ at the Stockholm International Water Institute: World Water Week 2021.
The session was attended by Ms Pooja Singh, Head Program and Monitoring Safe Water Network, Ms Portia Persley, Division Chief – WASH USAID, Ms Juhi Gupta, Head of Sustainability PepsiCo, Ms Deepa Karthyken, Co-founder & Director, Athena Infonomics. The session was moderated by Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Section.
Despite evidence that equal gender representation in the WASH sector can increase the sustenance and quality of services, women are still under-represented in water supply and governance globally. Women are usually relegated to water collection rather than operators and managers of safe water sources. Climate-induced stresses and the Covid-19 crisis have highlighted both the value and challenges in effectively engaging women in the WASH workforce.
Safe Water Network presented the insights on barriers and opportunities for women’s economic empowerment drawing from the work done under the USAID-supported SEWAH (Sustainable Enterprises for Water and Health) program in India. This session shares the advances of Safe Water Network’s 2019 Gender program: Transforming Women from Water Carries to Water Managers called ‘Water Aunties 1.0’ to the progress and scale up as ‘Water Aunties 2.0’ in 2021. Speaking about the Water Aunties 2.0 Ms Poonam Sewak V.P. Program and Partnerships, Safe Water Network said that this a huge leap in the water sector. While Water Aunties 1.0 was about testing and piloting women as entrepreneurs and operatos in operating and managing water purification plants ot Water ATMs. The Water Aunties 2.0 under the USAID supported SEWAH program brings together Safe Water Enterprise (SWE) implementers providing them with technical assistance and capcity building tools to take the program to scale at the national level. Seven SWE implementers in India joined hands and trained 548 women as water ATMs operator and 152 as water across 11 states of India earning $50-70 per month. This was made possible by the collaboration of the public and the private sector, the municipality, water supply departments, women self help groups.
Through case studies from India and Kenya presented in this session, it becomes evident that systematic changes are required at all levels to address the development agenda of gender inclusion. Women should be included in planning activities such as finance, management of resources, govern water and sanitation assets and services in institution building, public institutions and development partners etc. These changes are to be anchored in the larger governance reform agenda of countries and development agencies.
Speaking, Kelly Ann Naylor, associate Director, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Section, Programme Division said, “The economic shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic underscore that the safe and affordable WASH services are needed now more than ever, especially for the most vulnerable families and communities. The practical tools in this report will help government and other implementing agencies formulate better measure and monitor women’s roles in WASH services.”
On behalf of USAID, Ms Portia Persley, Division Chief – WASH, USAID, said, “What gets measured gets produced! In every sector, the gender dynamics are deep-rooted and creating cycles of disparity and impacting women for generations. The current time is crucial as more women-centric programs and policies will help in better management of water resources and available amenities. The women-led workforce will effectively strategise the decision-making and will help in women upliftment in the society.”
Ms Pooja Singh, Head M&E Safe Water Network said, “I am delighted at the journey of women social entrepreneur from Water Aunties 1.0 to Water Aunties 2.0. Let us collaborate to create a movement of women water entrepreneurs”
Ms Juhi Gupta, Head Sustainability PepsiCo said “ PepsiCo has been a part of this journey of creating grassroot women entrepreneurs in water. Women are facing multiple challenges regarding their effective participation in the generating livelihoods and this Water Aunites program has empowered them socially and monetarily.
Ms Deepa Karthyken, Cofounder Athena Infonomics said “The progress of a society depends on the progress of its women. Unfortunately, women work twice as hard to get half the salary. The infrastructure, policy is tilted in men’s favour.”.