Principles for mainstreaming gender equality in the South African rural water services sector

Rust, Urszula Anna (2007-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


Gender equality and access to basic water services are complexly interlinked objectives for both poverty alleviation and sustainable development. In South Africa, research shows that despite the emphasis on mainstreaming gender equality in the water services sector, (and the concomitant policies and structures) the lives of poor women in this sector are not substantively being transformed. This study was therefore aimed at deriving principles that would enhance the impact of gender mainstreaming in the water services sector, and at evaluating current South African guidelines according to these principles. The study was qualitative in nature, and both theoretical and empirical information was used to derive the above principles. The initial literature survey indicated a need for a systemic approach to gender mainstreaming in the water services sector. Therefore, theoretical information was principally obtained from literature on poverty, sustainable development, complexity theory, feminism and governance. Empirical information was obtained from three sources, namely (1) participant observation of the meetings of the Strategic Advisory Group on Gender of the Water Services Sector Leadership Group (WSSLG), (2) individual interviews with a range of stakeholders, and (3) focus group interviews with community members involved in six water services projects – three each in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga Provinces. The study resulted in a proposed framework of fourteen focus areas for gender mainstreaming in the water services sector. These focus areas, along with illustrative questions, are the following: (1) Policy premises and formulation (Is the policy premised on equity and poverty alleviation?) (2) Approach to gender mainstreaming (How is the 50/50 campaign being implemented?) (3) The role of the gender officials (Is the gender focal point part of the strategic management team?) (4) Co-operative governance (Are IDP officials and women’s organizations involved?) (5) Public participation (Is the public participation process adequately resourced?) (6) Advocacy and awareness raising (Do family gender relations feature in awareness raising initiatives?) (7) Access to basic services (Are women specifically targeted in service provision?) (8) HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence (What measures are in place to decrease the risk of disease?) (9) Economic empowerment (Are the employment opportunities created sustainable?) (10) Leadership by women (How is the leadership capacity of women being developed?) (11) Capacity development of women (Is the training aimed at portable skills?) (12) Project/programme management (What monitoring and evaluation processes are being used?) (13) Environmental sustainability (What measures are in place to conserve water and reduce pollution?) (14) Engaging with traditional culture (How are restrictive cultural traditions addressed?) When the above framework was applied to the WSSLG Gender Mainstreaming Strategy and Action Plan (DWAF, 2005), the WSSLG strategy was in certain respects found to be non-responsive to the learning garnered in this study. Particularly, the WSSLG strategy neither adopts a poverty alleviation approach, nor addresses environmental sustainability and traditional culture. It also does not facilitate co-operative governance and programme management. Finally, gender inequality in the water services sector impedes both poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Systemic solutions are required, and these study results might be germane to these.

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