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The e-Newsletter of the Gender Network

November 2015 | Vol. 9, No. 3

Where are the women in the water pipeline? Wading out of the Shallows
Women and Water Leadership in Georgia
By Imrana Jalal*


Gender inequality in water utilities has the effect of causing a lack of motivation for women to
work in the sector, and a lack of innovation. Female customers needs are also not reflected in
the provision of water services, says Nino Abuladze, a United Water Supply Company of
Georgia LLC (UWSCG) employee charged with the responsibility of monitoring the integrating of
gender equality into the company.

It is widely accepted that water projects planned and implemented with the complete and
genuine participation of women are more sustainable and effective than those without.1
Research by the World Bank and the International Red Cross (IRC) International Water and
Sanitation Center, of community water and sanitation projects in 88 projetcs, found that those
designed and run with the full collaboration of women are more sustainable.2 Another study by
the Inter-agency Task Force on Gender and Water demonstrated that when women are trained
to contribute to asset management, there is greater sustainability of assets due to improved
operations and maintenance.3 In a like manner, some Asian Development Bank (ADB)-
supported projects designed to increase womens decision making in community-based
organizations (CBOs), such as water user associations, farmer groups, self-help groups, and
sanitation committees, have led to improvements in community water infrastructure, water
supply, and sanitation.4

All water projects need not only the participation of women, but their leadership as well. To
narrow the gender gap in leadership at all levels of the water sector, there needs to be more
women involved in decision making.

However, there is a gender gap in water management leadership at all levels of water
governancenational, municipal, and localand it encompasses water utilities. The UWSCG
describes the water sector in Georgia as male dominated and that much work remains to be
done in Georgia, and within the UWSCG itself, says Ucha Dzimistarishvili, Head of the Donor
Relations Department.

Women are rarely involved in decisions relating to water policies and strategies, water resource
management, or tariff setting and technology choices. They are missing in key areas of water-


Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), ADB with inputs from Sanjay Joshi, Senior
Urban Development Specialist and Shanny Campbell, Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and
Development )

related decision making, and in the scientific and technical subsectors from which female water
leaders are likely to emerge.

As Abuladze puts it, There is a lack of

technical education among women,
leading to male domination in the water
sector, the result of which is too few
women within water utilities. A further
consequence is even fewer women in
management. A major challenge is to get
women into the technical and engineering
professions within the sector.

In order to nourish the leadership
pipeline, greater numbers of females in
general, as well as female water
professionals, are needed in the water
sector, as well as within water utilities.
This means more women educated and
trained in the scientific and technical
elements of water, as well as female
water engineers and professionals.
Nino Abuladze and Ucha Dzimistarishvili explain to Imrana Jalal
why there are so few women in leadership in the water sector and


A project attempting to increase the numbers and participation of women and female
professionals in the water sector, and in water utilities in particular, is the ADB-supported
Georgia: Urban Services Improvement Investment Program (USIIP).

Background of the ADB Project

The USIIP was designed to improve the health of residents in the secondary towns of Anaklia,
Kutaisi, Marneuli, MestiaPoti, Ureki and Zugdidi. The intended outcome of the Investment
Program is improved water supply and sanitation (WSS) services in these secondary towns.

The first output supports infrastructure investments to rehabilitate, improve and expand WSS
facilities in seven secondary towns, and to provide vehicles and equipment for systems
operation and maintenance for these towns. The second output is to provide capacity
development for UWSCG and the Georgia National Energy and Water Supply Regulatory
Commission. The latter is a WSS sector regulating body. This includes providing management
support through a water utility operator to improve management and technical capabilities of
the UWSCG. The third output is to provide project implementation support comprising detailed
engineering, construction supervision, safeguards compliance, preparing subsequent projects
of the Investment Program and a public awareness program on health, hygiene, sanitation and
water conservation.

Gender Designs for Water Women

The USIIP project was categorized as effective gender mainstreaming (EGM) under ADBs
gender mainstreaming system, which means that explicit pro-active gender designs had to be
integrated into the project with a gender action plan (GAP). The project period is from 2011 to
2019. The implementation of the GAP began in September 2013.

Gender designs in the GAP included training water utility staff working on the Management
Information System and accounting system on sex-disaggregated data, and collecting and
establishing a sex-disaggregated consumer database. It also directly addressed trying to
improve the numbers and participation of women in the water sector by facilitating their career
development with a target of 30% female representation in overall employment and key
management staff of UWSCG, and at least 30% female staff in town customer service care
centers. These activities would be facilitated through a sex-disaggregated data base introduced
for human resource management, and a yearly report on human resource development
informed with gender analysis. The gender analysis of human resources at UWSCG would assist
the utility in making gender sensitive decisions about womens participation, and managerial
capacities and training. Additionally, UWSCG staff were to be trained in financial management
and accounting, and gender equality, with a target of 30% women.

A survey with a gender lens was to be conducted on household water management and
sanitation practices focusing on hygiene, the environmental impact of sewage, consumer rights,
and efficient water use. Information, education and communication (IEC) materials on water,
hygiene, sanitation, customer rights and water usage efficiency based on consumer needs and
knowledge gaps were to be developed and staff at customer care centers trained as hygiene
and sanitation advocates, with the assistance of an NGO with gender mainstreaming
experience. The public awareness program was to be rolled out in Marneuli and Mestia initially
and a Gender Specialist was to be hired to oversee the implementation of the GAP and
participate in the public awareness program.

The plan also included the identification of potential female leaders and targeted training for
advanced management, as well the development of a gender sensitive promotion strategy.

The company also commenced a baseline survey on water-related illnesses in 2014, and intends
to collect data on womens time poverty to attempt to show that the provision of clean and
safe WSS has improved womens time burdens.

Describing the gender designs as a change project, the USWCG has demonstrated its
commitment to gender equality by embracing gender mainstreaming within its own nuclear
institutional project, Women Employees Empowerment at the UWSCG, and by dedicating a
mentor within the change project in order to achieve the target.

Gender Equality Results in the USIIP

The direct gender benefits of the overall program when completed will be expanded, improved,
continuous 24 hour, potable, water supply to 100,000 households benefitting approximately

150,000 women. A significant number of families and women will benefit from new water
supply and sanitation, improved sanitation and hygiene knowledge, and a greater knowledge
capacity in water efficiency and use.

A sex-disaggregated customer database has been established allowing the company to design
awareness campaigns that are gender inclusive and targeted for greater effectiveness.

In October 2015, two years after the GAP implementation commenced, the project has resulted
in 101 female employees being trained, of whom 84 are Service Center staff, out of a total of
321, constituting 31% against a target of 30%. The training also targeted women-only training
of potential leaders and managers. A Human Resources expert company was hired to design a
performance system to identify gaps, develop an incentive system and enable talented women
to be promoted.

The most elusive target to reach in the GAP has been 30% females in management. At the time
of this report in October 2015, the total number of employees is 2,745 of whom 647 are female
(23% against a target of 30%), and of whom 25 women out of 268 in total are managers, at
around 9% against a target of 30%. In comparison, the head office of UWSCG has 32% female
staff (of 386 employees) of whom 21% (17) hold managerial positions. At the Service Centers, 8
women out of 190 in total are managers.

Table: Male-female participation rates in UWSCG & management positions vs. GAP female targets
% Gender Action
Plan Female
Number of employees
No. of managers
No. of employees in head office
No of managers in head office

No. of employees in Service Centers

No. of managers in Service Centers
UWSCG staff trained
UWSCG staff trained on gender

sensitive leadership
UWSCG staff trained on financial
management and
No. of employees in Technical field
Note: * - according to 2014 data
Source: United Water Supply Company of Georgia LLC (UWSCG)













Oh sister, where art thou? Challenges to womens leadership in the water sector

The absence of women in water

agencies cannot be explained by any
single factor. Suffice it to say there are
a limited number of women water
technicians, environment specialists,
and scientistsqualified and ready to
fill professional leadership positions in
the water sector.5 Subtle and unsubtle
gender stereotyping in secondary
education often directs girls away from
science, technology, engineering, and
medicine subjects at tertiary level. Even
technical and vocational education
programs that train water technicians
Furthermore, many technical positions
require field activities undertaken with
Nino Kveladze, scientific staff in laboratory of the UWSCG. Women in the
laboratory told me that this type of scientific work was very compatible for
male colleagues, and overnight stays,
which may discourage women. Their

mobility may be affected by husbands or family members who may prevent them from visiting
the field. These factors, and the challenges of domestic and care responsibilities, are just some
of the reasons that explain the lack of women in water leadership positions. The project
attempts to deal with some of these issues through gender sensitivity training with staff and
management to put them on alert as to the special needs and security concerns of women
whilst in the field.

Box. Female Engineers Have their Say

This sector is very male oriented. When we were doing our engineering training we were only a
small number of women, in fact a complete minority. A big challenge now is trying to balance
our domestic responsibilities with demanding paid work, said Medea Dondua, an energy
engineer and Eka Murjikneli, a water engineer. Dondua did not really have any parental support
in choosing this discipline at University but she persevered anyway. Murjikneli was in a class of
28, of whom 2 were women. I have twin toddlers aged 5 and to try to keep up with both
responsibilities, work and child care is tough said Murjikneli. We are lucky we have a very
understanding male head of department who has children himself so he understands. That is
not always the case. Our company is actually good to women; the real challenge is getting more
women into technical and engineering schools and making it attractive to them. Flexible
working arrangements are actually critical. said Dondua.

Medea Dondua, female energy engineer at United Water Supply

Company of Georgia LLC (UWSCG)

Eka Murjikneli,, technical engineer at UWSCG

Sanitation and IEC

This part pf the project (which was conducted in 2010 and 2011) is unique in Georgia in that it
targeted women and the optimal use of water, sanitation and hygiene. The aim was to identify
water-related problems, to conduct an information-education campaign, in particular, to raise
awareness on domestic water management, sanitation and hygiene norms, and to inform
women about their customer rights. Each family received booklets containing information on
efficient water use, water-related diseases and hygiene and customer rights. These were
distributed with water bills. A documentary was made, which showed water-related problems
and its impact on women's daily lives. On 8 March, International Women's Day, 26 regional
television channels broadcasted the documentary film.6


Under ADBs tracking system which measures completed projects at the project completion
stage for successful gender equality results the project appears to be generally on track but to
watch carefully and to ensure implementation and achievement of 75% of GAP targets.

Given the difficulties of achieving an unrealistic target of 30% women in management (20%
would have been a much more realistic target given the sector) UWSCG accepts that the first
challenge lies in creating a pool of female engineers and water technicians, from which to
recruit. To this end, and in extension of the USIIP GAP, the utility is supporting a program in
2017 to facilitate career development; and encourage a pipeline of water sector professionals
who are female, through encouraging the enrolment of girls at the WSS program at university

The company is already implementing a range of good practices and is supportive of a range of
measures. Going forward it could consider providing young university graduates with practical
training, apprenticeships, internships, or short-term job placements in its company or related
technical departments to give them practical experience and an overview of the sector. This is
necessary to ensure that women are out of the shallows and to develop a critical mass of
leadership positions.


ADB. 2014. ADB Briefs Number 24. December 2014. Women, Water and Leadership. Manila.
B. Gross, C. van Wijk, and N. Mukherjee. 2000. Linking Sustainability with Demand, Gender and Poverty: A Study
in Community-Managed Water Supply Projects in 15 Countries. Delft: Water and Sanitation Program.
Inter-agency Task Force on Gender and Water. 2006. Gender, Water and Sanitation: A Policy Brief. New York:
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA).
ADB. 2014. ADB Experiences: Womens Participation and Voice in Community-Based Organizations. Manila.
ADB. 2014. ADB Briefs Number 24. December 2014. Women, Water and Leadership. Manila.
Womens Information Center of Georgia. 2012. Presentation on the Information-Education Campaign (IEC) on
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Marneuli and Mestia by Elene Rusetskaia, Director of Women's Information
Center. 11 April.