*Safe Water Network speaks on ‘Collaborative Action to Close the Gender Gap in WASH Workforce’ at Stockholm International Water Institute: World Water Week 2021*
~ Methods to transform grassroot women as social entrepreneurs to operate and maintain water purification plants and earn livelihood~
~Achieving SDG Goal 5 Gender Equality through SDG Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation: Reimagining the role of women in the water and sanitation workforce ~
~ Suggesting policy changes for gender inclusion in WASH Water Sanitation and Hygiene to bridge the gender gap ~
September 03, 2021, New Delhi: 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.”.
About Safe Water Network
Safe Water Network has been working alongside communities in Ghana and India since 2009 to establish decentralized and locally owned community water purification systems that provide affordable, reliable and safe off-grid drinking water. Over the past ten years, Safe Water Network India has established about 350 safe water stations called ‘iJal stations’ in Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh, providing access to safe water to over one million beneficiaries and 1000 livelihoods. We work with local governments (Panchayati Raj Institutions) and enable self–help group, local communities/entrepreneurs by providing training, tools and support to enable financially sustainable iJal stations. We have launched the Safe Water Enterprise Alliance, a multi-sectoral partnership for sector collaboration and advancement of affordable, safe drinking water for the poor. Working with government and other stakeholders, our priority is to document the success of this approach and, working with other entities, reach millions in need of safe water through its broad-scale replication. We regularly publish the India Sector Review and share best practices in the sector through our field insights and spotlights disseminated nationally through our ‘Beyond the Pipe’ forum and internationally at the Stockholm World Water Week. We work with urban local bodies for city water delivery assessments and are the Key Resource Center of the erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (Jal Shakti Ministry).
USAID has helped India overcome some of the country’s most pressing development needs, such as acute food insecurity, while also partnering with the Government of India to manage and implement its development agenda. Building on more than 70 years of development partnership, USAID works with the Government of India, the private sector and civil society to identify, pilot and scale up cost-effective innovations and best practices to further boost India’s development. We focus on increasing access to quality health care and sanitation, protecting the environment, and boosting the growth of clean energy.