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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*  
 

Introduction  
 
“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   women’s   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  
governance—national,   municipal,   and   local—and   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  )  

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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  
 
utilities  
 
 
 
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.    
 

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Gender  Designs  for  Water  Women    
 
The   USIIP   project   was   categorized   as   “effective   gender   mainstreaming”   (EGM)   under   ADB’s  
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   women’s   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   women’s   time   poverty   to   attempt   to   show   that   the   provision   of   clean   and  
safe  WSS  has  improved  women’s  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  

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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  
Total  
Men  
%  
Women  
%   Gender  Action  
Plan  Female  
Target  
Number  of  employees  
2,745  
2,098  
76  
647  
23  
30%  
No.  of    managers  
268  
243  
90  
25  
9  
30%  
No.  of  employees  in  head  office  
386  
259  
67  
127  
32  
30%  
No  of    managers  in  head  office  
78  
61  
78  
17  
21  
30%  
 

No.  of  employees  in  Service  Centers  
2,359  
1,839  
No.  of    managers  in  Service  Centers  
190  
182  
office  
UWSCG  staff  trained  
321  
220  
UWSCG  staff  trained  on  gender  
20*    
 
sensitive  leadership  
UWSCG  staff  trained  on  financial  
50  
32  
management  and  
accounting  
No.  of  employees  in    Technical  field  
1,547  
1,468  
Note:  *  -­‐  according  to  2014  data  
Source:  United  Water  Supply  Company  of  Georgia  LLC  (UWSCG)  
 
 
 

77  
95  

520  
8  

22  
4  

 
 

68  
 

101  
106  

31  
100  

64  

18  

36  

 

94  

79  

5  

 

30%  
 

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Oh  sister,  where  art  thou?  Challenges  to  women’s  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  
professionals—engineers,  
water  
technicians,   environment   specialists,  
and   scientists—qualified   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  
are  
highly  
gender-­‐segregated.  
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,  
women.    
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.  

 

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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  
 
Conclusion  
 
Under   ADB’s   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  
level.      
 

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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.  
 
 
 
 
                                                                                                                       
1

 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.  
3
  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).  
4
 ADB.  2014.  ADB  Experiences:  Women’s  Participation  and  Voice  in  Community-­‐Based  Organizations.  Manila.  
5
 ADB.  2014.  ADB  Briefs  Number  24.  December  2014.  Women,  Water  and  Leadership.  Manila.  
6
  Women’s   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.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtcrhsPahHM  
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