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Nepal Water Action: Making Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Gender-Sensitive and Pro-Poor

Nepal Water Action: Making Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Gender-Sensitive and Pro-Poor

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Published by: adbwaterforall on Oct 12, 2012
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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Nepal: Making Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Gender-Sensitive and ProPoor
May 2006

Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH), a national-level nongovernment organization, provided safe water, improved sanitation, and better hygiene to rural areas in Nepal. NEWAH boasts of a Gender and Poverty Approach (GAP) aimed at dissolving the disparities between women and men, and between the rich and the poor in Nepal's rural communities. NEWAH'S "GAP" APPROACH To intensify the gender and poverty mainstreaming strategies of its water, sanitation, and health education programs, the Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH) institutionalized a Gender and Poverty (GAP) approach in its interventions in Nepal's rural communities. The GAP approach addresses existing social inequities by increasing gender equality and social justice in rural water supply, sanitation, and hygiene projects. Five project sites in Nepal were used to pilot-test the GAP approach. As of July 2005, NEWAH has provided these project sites a total of 12,508 community tap stands, 41,484 domestic latrines, 181 school latrines, and 7 public latrines. NEWAH has also trained 14,879 members of NGOs, women credit groups, and other community organizations. NEWAH's GAP approach was instrumental in increasing women's and the poor's access to water supply and sanitation services awareness on health issues and hygiene education participation in decision making processes and skills trainings, particularly in relation to the design, implementation, and operation of the water supply, sanitation and hygiene project WATER FOR SOCIAL EQUALITY NEWAH's experience showed that the richest and higher caste men dominated all aspects of access to water and sanitation delivery projects. This situation often excluded women, poor Dalit (lowcaste), and indigenous peoples from any form of decision-making, training, and other benefits related to improved water and sanitation systems.

Water systems predominantly controlled by male elites in Nepal often cause unequal access to safe drinking water between the better-off and the poorest socio-economic groups. More often than not, these male-led water projects prove to be unsustainable. NEWAH recognized that unless efforts are made to correct this particular situation at the organizational and program levels, poor women and men will continue to be deprived of the benefits of their water and sanitation projects. GAP STRATEGIES AND RESULTS One of the GAP approach's most important strategies was the conduct of a "wellbeing" ranking of all households in GAP project sites to determine the socio-economic status of each. The ranking results were used to identify which households get greater subsidies and more paid employment opportunities. The ranking also helped identify households and community members, particularly poor women, who need to be given better chances of participating in decision-making activities, especially when it comes to water supply and sanitation services delivery. The GAP approach also provided equal division of paid and unpaid labor and skills trainings to women and men in project-related work. Women workers reported that their family and community status was enhanced, and their selfconfidence increased. The men, meanwhile, were also trained in health and sanitation promotion. The increasing roles that poor women play in GAP projects allowed them to get more involved in decisions over the location and orientation of water points in their communities. Consultations with women through the GAP approach have also directed the design of faucets and platform walls, pipe railings for women to hang clothes, and bathing units to meet women's practical needs. Child- and girl-friendly school latrines were also installed. Another feature of the GAP approach was a flexible water points policy that allows the construction of water points even to communities with a small number of households. The policy ensured the provision of water and sanitation facilities to more distant households, who are often poor and socially excluded.

A socialized graded rate system for operations and maintenance payments was also put in place, benefiting the poorest households. By providing 50% of necessary labor to help install the water and sanitation system, poor households were provided with free latrines and pay less for the services. Livelihoods training programs were also provided to add to the households' income. The GAP approach also paved the way for the creation of a gender sensitive savings and credit organization. CLOSING THE GAP IN NEPAL While NEWAH's GAP approach was successful in narrowing the gender and poverty gap, much still needs to be done to achieve gender and social equality in rural Nepal. NEWAH's projects give a few lessons and suggestions in undertaking similar water supply, sanitation, and hygiene promotion projects. First, disaggregating community data by gender, socioeconomic groups and caste/ethnicity is necessary to help identify the extent of the projects' benefits, that is, whether women, the poor and socially excluded groups are being reached. Female headed households or those with elderly or handicapped members should be prioritized in the provision of latrines, and provided subsidies, and suitable and affordable alternatives. Second, innovative approaches for health and hygiene promotion should be used such as considering children as change agents in the promotion of good hygiene behavior, and training males to become community health workers to foster change in men's attitudes when female community health workers cannot make headway. And third, monitoring the sustainability of an intervention, however crucial and challenging, must be considered an essential component of the projects. Future projects should be designed with greater emphasis of social inclusiveness so that no women, the poor, and other disadvantage groups will be left out from water, sanitation and hygiene services.

RELATED LINK Serving the Rural Poor: A Review of Civil Society-Led Initiatives in Rural Water and Sanitation

_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in May 2006: http://www.adb.org/Water/Actions/NEP/NEWAH.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.

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