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Policy and Advocacy
Posted by: Malaika Wright at 4:23PM EST on October 14, 2010
At Akodokodoi village in Northern Uganda, the tree divides us. On one side, we the project staff from CARE and partner organizations sit on short wooden folding chairs, forming a loose circle with the men. On the other side of the tree the women settle themselves on the ground. I wonder if they prefer this shield of separateness, the better to breastfeed their children or shift them around on their laps. Some look off into the distance or tug distractedly at tufts of grass, their legs stretched out in front of them.
But to assume the women to be disinterested observers would be a mistake. After the men speak of how the community worked with us to get the borehole that is now their main water source, we ask the women what difference the borehole has made for them. They speak without hesitation and with the precision of those that know what they’re talking about. The first thing a women named Janet Adongo says is that that their husbands don’t beat them anymore. In the past, they would leave early in the morning to walk three kilometers to the nearest water point at a school. Once there, they stood in line for hours. They came home to find husbands irate with hunger because lunch hadn’t been prepared yet and suspicious of their wives’ whereabouts. Violence ensued.
“This facility is encouraging our husbands to love us more,” says one woman.
The fact that lack of water close by leads to domestic violence was no surprise to me, having seen in other countries how water scarcity affects practically every aspects of domestic life. Yet this situation seemed particularly egregious.
“Why,” I question with the boldness of the naïve, “do the men not believe their wives when they say it takes half a day to get water?”
At this point, the pace of the conversation picks up. There is some back and forth between the men and the women. The rest of us wait impatiently for the translation.
As I understand it, the men’s viewpoint boils down to this: collecting water is a woman’s burden to shoulder. One of the men goes as far as to say that he paid a bride price for his wife and the issue of going to verify how long it takes to get water is none of his business—she must work. A woman counters that she finds the issue of bride price insulting.
The situation in Akodokodoi village is by no means typical. But it’s far from unusual. It was proof to me that water is not a neutral issue but rather a deeply gendered and political one. Women get stuck with the burden of collecting it, a matter in which they have little choice. Women are usually left out of decisions about how water is used and accessed, particularly when it used for productive purposes like agriculture.
Access to safe water reduces death from diarrheal disease, helps keep children in school and frees up time that can be spent making a living. But this only temporarily ameliorates some of the unfairness to women and girls. If water scarcity increases once again, girls will be the first ones to be pulled out of school to search for water while their brothers remain undisturbed.
What are the implications of situations like this for the development organizations, donors, governments and other actors that promote, advocate and directly implement interventions that increase access to safe water and sanitation? If providing access to safe water and sanitation puts us at the nexus of power and prejudice it also gives us an open door into changing and challenging cultural and institutional norms that perpetuate inequity. Doing so not only improves the effectiveness of the programs, as we’ve seen from direct experience in projects that prioritize women’s involvement, but also has far-reaching repercussions, as these norms are also at the heart of many other poverty and social justice issues.
For development organizations, what if one of our criteria for selecting communities to assist with water access was whether they would be willing to challenge the status quo by having men and boys help with water collection responsibilities? What if policy makers prioritized women’s control and ownership of water and land as an important an issue as their right to an education? What if water councils and watershed management bodies actively sought the participation of women in decision-making, realizing that men and women think about and use water in very different ways? What if donors supported smarter policies towards the provision of water and sanitation?
After its heated turn, the conversation in Akodokodoi village flowed to other testimonies of what a critical difference the water point made for the community. But I was most moved by the early words of those women who were not afraid to speak the truth. Let’s act with the same boldness.
If you’re looking for a practical way to contribute to smarter investments in water and sanitation access, please support the Water for the World Act which strengthens the U.S. government’s ability to take a more strategic approach to water and sanitation.
Posted by: Brooks Keene at 2:53PM EST on October 14, 2010
When you turn on the tap one day and no water comes out, what do you do? You call the plumber or the city and complain. You need dependable and quick service, and you usually get it.
It might seem an obvious point, but a lot of development work on water and sanitation has traditionally focused more on building wells or latrines than on helping to catalyze or set up a service that will run forever and always be there when it’s needed. Surveys in various countries have found that between 50 and 80 percent of water points in Sub-Saharan Africa are dysfunctional or need repair, representing a colossal problem for those communities and big waste of money.[i]
To see how this works in practice and in honor of Global Handwashing Day, let’s take a simple example: getting kids to wash their hands in school. It’s been estimated that getting kids to wash hands with soap at key times could save a million lives a year from things like diarrhea and respiratory infections. So this is, quite literally, one of the most important things we could accomplish as a global society.
If you want school kids to wash their hands, they’re going
to need soap and water. Simple
right? The data suggest not. In a school WASH program in
But we know that the budget is only a small piece of the puzzle. The school administration has to prioritize buying soap, something that frequently isn’t the case, so public health officials need to come by every so often and make sure no one is asleep on the job. That official needs to have money for fuel to make it to all of the schools to check up on them. She needs to have a standardized tool to monitor the school with so that information can be compiled about how good of a job the district is doing overall. On their end, the school administration needs the budget to buy soap, but they also need training in methods to get kids to wash their hands correctly (we’re creating new social norms here!). Local stores need to sell the soap at a reasonable price and with a reliable supply chain, so now the private sector is involved as well. And I haven’t even started talking about how you make sure a school has clean water.
The simple fact is that a lot of the public and private systems
we take for granted as Americans are missing in many places in the world. I’ve been to schools in
It’s getting to this level of supporting national
public and private systems that is critical if we’re ever going to move the
meter in a meaningful way.To get there,
major donors like the US need to
definitively get beyond charity projects and think seriously and critically
about how the work they are funding will lead to long-term services that are
there when people need them.It means
taking a backseat to the government and private sector actors who will be there
long after the foreign aid dollars cease to flow.Officials in the
every drop counts: tackling rural
Posted by: suvas chandra devkota at 6:47AM EST on October 5, 2010
Nepal is a small mountainous country surrounded by China to the north and India to the south, east and west with total land area of 147,181 km2. The forest and shrub land together cover about 5.83 million ha which is 39.6% of the total land of the country (GoV/N, 1999). The country is rich in biodiversity because of its altitudinal and climatic variations. The forest resource is one of the imperative sources of income that is directly correlated with livelihood systems of the locals. About 25.5% of the total population is below poverty line (government information, 2010) where 70% is estimated to be forest dependent.
Forest resources of Nepal are managed under different management model. Among them, Community forestry management is one of the renowned participatory schemes. About 15,000 Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) are legally functioning and managing 1.3 million ha (22 % of the National Forest area) forest across the country. The harmony among different ethnic groups, indigenous people and other forest dependent communities during the process and functions of the community forest management are enthusiastic and impressive. Because of the effective and efficient management model, community forestry has become a popular model of community development not only in Nepal but also to the rest of the world. However, government is still reluctant to handover forest, in which the daily livelihood, to community. The data shows that more than 78% of the national forest area is still under government supervision that is severely affected by deforestation and degradation.
Nepal is under the political transition and rules and regulations of the forestry sector at the field level have seemed ineffective. Reports generated by media, parliamentary committee on natural resources and means and civil society organizations have indicated that the mismanagement and misguidance of Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFS) is the main cause of deforestation and forest degradation. Historical evidences show that Nepal's forest has always been suffered during the political transition. The current transitional state and the breakdown of the rule of law have allowed a nationwide network of timber mafia to be flourished.
Deforestation and illegal
harvesting of the timber is much more serious problem in Nepal.
. However, there is no available actual data of reducing the forest areas, it is clear fact that forest in Nepal is being disappeared at the alarming rate. It is estimated that more than 1200,000 ha of forest area with the 2% deforestation rate in government managed forests have disappeared during the period of last three years and millions of cubic feet of timber have been smuggled from the forest. The major causes of depletion and deforestation of forest are unethical governance system of the forestry sector and institutionalization of corruption. Result is that illegal logging and trading of the valuable timber of the plain area has occurred tremendously. These are the big challenges to the community to safeguarding of forest.
It shows that deforestation and forest disappearance have been occurring tremendously in government managed forests. Unfortunately, the MoFS and its allies are blaming community people for deforestation and depletion of forest ignoring the contributions of communities in restoring forest in the country.
Different studies, reports and media have indicated that ministry is one of the key players of deforestation and forest depletion in the country. People are saying that ministers and high level bureaucrats have good relation to timber mafias and poachers. He has been using this network to clear the forest and earn illegal money. The minister of Forest and soil conservation seems to think his job is not to save forest but raze them. Trees are being felled by logging groups that enjoy political patronage and protection from ministers. on the other hand, in some cases, CFUGs have been colluding with timber poachers and corrupted local officials to harvest trees.
It is well known that major cause of depletion and deforestation of forest is unethical government system of forestry sector, which has also institutionalized the corruption, has become a big challenge for minimizing and stopping the deforestation rate. Result is that illegal cutting and trading of the valuable timber of the plain area has occurred tremendously. To hide all these evidences, unfortunately the government is blaming communities for deforestation and depletion of forest area and trying to downsize the community power through amendment of existing forest policy and law.
Therefore, now it is very critical situation on the forestry sector. Every day forest area is being depleted and destroyed for smuggling valuable timbers. It is time to need to work together to protect our forest from smugglers and timber mafias. Therefore, come together and join hands with community people to save forest nationwide.