Gender gaps in water, sanitation services

An assessment of the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in 16 districts in five regions of the country has revealed numerous gender gaps in the delivery of these services.

The assessment was carried out by the Government of Ghana and United Nations Children’s Fund (GOG/UNICEF).

The two-month assessment conducted in the remotest parts of the Central, Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, such as Kpandai, Egaru, Funsi and Zabzugu, brought to the fore gaps in the design and siting of facilities.

Other gaps identified were the non-involvement of women, who were most affected by issues of WASH in decision making and the fact that women and children suffered most when there were no services, due to the domestic roles they performed and which required the use of water.

Women affected most

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic last Thursday in Accra after a debriefing on the key findings of the gender assessment, the GOG/UNICEF Consultant, Mrs Patience Agyare-Kwabi, said, ‘Women and girls need a lot of water, hygiene and good sanitation during their menstruation, and if these facilities are not provided for them, they will be the ones who will suffer the most.’

She also said because girls reached puberty when they were in basic school, if WASH facilities were not provided ‘then it means that their stay in school can be hindered because when they know they do not have hygienic and safe places to change,  they may decide not to go to school – and not going to school will definitely impact on their performance.’

The consultant admitted that although the girls were more affected in the absence of WASH facilities and services, boys could also be affected because they were now performing similar domestic roles as the girls.

Women not involved in decision making

She also said her assessment tour revealed that ‘Decision-making structures at the national, regional, district, area council and community level does not systematically target women in the leadership positions,’ which meant that although they were most affected by the unavailability of resources, they were not part of the decision involving the positioning of such facilities ‘and that in terms of gender, it is unfair – is unequal.’

According to Mrs Agyare-Kwabi, another pertinent development identified during the study, was the current trend of rural-urban migration, where most men left women behind to seek greener pastures.

‘If we do not empower women to take up leadership positions, then we will soon be missing out because a lot of men are running into the urban communities, leaving the women and children. And somebody needs to take up decision making,’ she stressed.

Adoption of guidelines

Disclosing the next line of action after compilation of the report from the assessment, the consultant said steps would be taken to ensure that stakeholders adopted and adapted guidelines and developed a tool kit by looking at the general sector programming, and identifying some key institutions like the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), to mainstream the guidelines.

She also hoped that the government, as the main partner, would at all levels, especially policy, incorporate a lot of the guidelines into all programmes being implemented.

Poor hygiene has serious implications on health. Each year, about 3,600 mothers in Ghana lose a child to diarrhoeal diseases, caused by lack of adequate sanitation and clean water.

This story was first published by The Daily Graphic on November 4, 2013


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