Water and Gender
Gender is a dynamic "social construction" that determines the whole of differentiations between men and women within the context of a certain place, community and culture. In most developing countries there is a very clear division of responsibilities between men and women. Women are almost always responsible for the domestic chores, child care, hygiene and fetching water for the complete household. In rural areas the time spent on fetching water may amount to 4 up to 5 hours a day. This has a direct impact on the possibilities and time women have to develop themselves, in view of education or income-generating activities.
As the most involved party women are thus exceptionally well placed to play an important role in the different participation- and decision-making mechanisms around water, or in the meantime to be able to contribute proportionally. However, usually that isn’t the case.
It is important to PROTOS to incorporate gender aspects in its activities:
- because in its actions PROTOS pursues the participation of the whole population (men and women).
- To increase the impact of the actions. If the activity only involves the men, its reach and sustainability diminishes considerably.
- Because a human right is concerned. Women and men deserve the same opportunities and rights (cp. the global conferences on women’s issues).
- To restore the power-balance between men and women. The undervaluation of women leads to the idea that women are subordinate to men (both in the economic field and with regard to their social and power position).
- Because the positive input of women is an important fact. Women make an important contribution to food safety, family production, attention to hygiene and health, child education and transfer of knowledge.
PROTOS wishes to support a policy of redistribution of power in order to change existing relationships so that women and men obtain equal access, control and appreciation. This must be realised in the South as well as in the North, but on a different scale:
- In the South PROTOS’ role is to contribute to the reinforcement of the community’s capacities to look for solutions with the partner-NGO and its target groups itself.
- In the North PROTOS will limit itself to pursuing a better gender balance within its own organisation.
In its field of activity PROTOS wishes to support actions that allow members of the local community to:
- take measures themselves to abolish economic, social and cultural discrimination against women;
- reinforce women’s position in their society;
- valorise better the specific capacities of women and men.
Within the different sectors this implies that women’s pressure of work must be reduced, that men must take on more female tasks that women should get more control over their time management, must be able to participate more in training and must acquire a larger decision-making power. Women also must obtain more access to the means of production and must have a larger impact on the spending of their income. Finally, the work and knowledge of women must be valued more highly.