Gender Equality and Environmental Sustainability in Uganda’s Water Sector

Published: 2021-07-02 02:22:00
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GENDER EQUALITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN UGANDA’S WATER SECTOR. By Nandala Mike([email protected] com) 1. 0INTRODUCTION 1. 1Essence of Gender, Gender Equality and the Environment Gender refers to the different roles, rights and responsibilities of men and women and the relationships between them, their qualities, behaviours, and identities which are determined through the process of socialisation to define their relationships with each other and with their environment.
Gender equality on the other hand is a principle that equates men and women before and under the law; men and women have equal dignity (worthiness); and have equal opportunities in economic, political, cultural and social life. It is upon this background that the relationships and rights enjoyed by men and women foster decision making and activities that in turn have been affected in both the management and sustainability of the environment. It has been observed that there is an undesirable imbalance that has existed between men and women resulting in inadequate performance of the letter of their roles.
Often this has slowed down development initiatives leading to adverse effects on the environment. 1. 2 Significancy of Water in Social and Economic Development Water is a key strategic resource, vital for sustaining life, promoting development and maintaining the environment. Access to clean and safe water and improved sanitation facilities and practices are pre-requisites to a health/population and therefore have a direct impact on the quality of life and productivity of the population.

Besides domestic water supply, water is also vital for: Livestock Water Supply, Industrial Water Supply, Hydropower generation, Agriculture, Marine Transport, Fisheries, Waste Discharge, Tourism, and Environmental Conservation. Water, therefore, significantly contributes to the national socio-economic development and also poverty eradication (UNWD, 2005) Water is thus an integral part of the natural resources protected under the Uganda Constitution. 1. 3Government Committement.
Over the last two decades, government has committed itself to the implementation of public sector reforms meant to ensure sustainable development, through legislative and policy frameworks anchored on three key policies, namely: Decentralisation, Privatisation and Divestiture; and the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), These were intended to reduce the burden of the nation’s concern for income generating resources and practices. The PEAP was prepared in 1997 in a move to eradicate poverty as an overall national planning framework.
It has since been revised through 2007/8 and based on five pillars, namely; (1) Economic management; (2) Enhancing production, competitiveness and incomes; (3) Security, conflict-resolution and disaster management; (4) Good governance and (5) Human development (PEAP 2004/5-2007/8) Water and sanitation are some of the central elements under pillar one intended to improve the quality of life of the poor through human development. The second pillar points out a strategy to foster production, incomes and competitiveness through water consumption and production.
It also addresses actions to empower and strengthen women’s gender awareness and furthermore points out inadequacies aimed at capacity building in the application of skills, limited choice in the decisions about the nature of services received and needed by women, less efforts in community gender awareness campaigns, weaknesses among decision makers including support in supervision and monitoring thus leading to reasons for low gender responsiveness in the water sector. Which way forward?
With this background, this Article addresses key policy and legal frame works in the water sector, gender and environmental impact assessment of water resources which have been developed and supported by various laws, sector performance, integration of gender into environment and sustainable development, issues of particular concern, and recommendations. 2. 0Policy, Legal and Institutional Frameworks 2. 1Policy The policy objectives of the Government of Uganda for the Water and Sanitation sector are at two levels: first, the domestic consumption and secondly, water for production.
At the domestic level, the objective is to provide sustainable safe water and hygienic sanitation facilities, within easy reach, based on management responsibility and ownership by users, to 77% of the population in rural areas and 100% in urban areas by year 2015. Concerning water for production, the aim is to promote development of water supply for agricultural production in order to modernise agriculture and mitigate effects of climatic variations on rain fed agriculture (MWLE, 1999).
In essence, the overall policy objective is to manage and develop the water resources of Uganda in an integrated and sustainable manner, so as to secure and provide adequate quantity and quality of water for all social and economic needs of the present and future generations. The Government aims at full participation of all stakeholders with an 80-90% target for effective use and functionality of facilities. Other policy measures have also been put in place by the Environment and Natural Resources Sector Working Group which commissioned a study on the use of economic instruments for environmental management.
Curbing water pollution was a key implementation factor for environmental sustainability. In 1998, the government introduced a water waste discharge fee ranging from 0 to 13 million Ugandan shillings ($0 to $7,000) in proportion to the biological oxygen demand load. The fees were meant to encourage investment in less polluting technologies. The legislation required that companies register for discharge permits before dumping industrial waste water. 2. 2Legal Framework
The major Instruments relevant to the Water Sector that provide the enabling legal framework for the water resources management and development in Uganda include: the Constitution, which provides the broad legal and policy framework within which all water sector legislation, policies and development plans are developed; the National Environment Act,(1995), it provides the framework for coordinated and sound management of the environment including environmental impact assessment of water resources related projects and setting water quality and effluent standards; the Local Government Act, which provides for the decentralisation of functions, powers, responsibilities and services to Local Governments; Uganda Water Action Plan (1995); the Water Resources Regulations and Waste Water Discharge Regulations (1998), providing for the regulation of water abstraction and waste water discharge through the use of permits; the National Water Policy (1999), indicating the policy framework for water resources management and development in Uganda. Other related legal policies include the National Gender Policy (1997) ; Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA) and ; Water and Sanitation Gender Strategy (2003-2008). The policies and legal framework outlined above, are forward-looking in intention, for socio-economic, development strategies of the Government of Uganda and have supported various reforms in the water sector which has enabled government, to put in good order and rationalise the country’s resource utilisation. The question is, are these policies fully implemented? What is the implementation stand at local government and community levels?
There are challenges regarding definition of roles and responsibilities, capacity and coordination of men and women, as well as collaboration for improved performance especially at government and community levels (MWLE, 2005). There is also need to review some provisions of the laws to incorporate regulatory functions and allow equal participation of men and women, in the water sector. (1)Institutional and Implementation Framework The water sector is structured at three distinct levels namely: (a) the national, (b) decentralised or local government level and (c) the micro or user level. (a)National level At the national level, a Ministry of Water, Lands and Environment (MWLE) was created in 1996 following Government restructuring of line Ministries.
This institution is charged with overall responsibility for initiating national policies and setting national standards and priorities for water development and management. Two national institutions are under this Ministry: The National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and Directorate of Water Development (DWD). At implementation level, the Water and Sanitation Sector Working Group (WSSWG) which is under the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) provides policy and technical guidance for sector development in the country; approves all sector programmes, including work-plans and budgets. The sector comprises representatives from ; Development Partners and Non-Governmental Organisations and Government.
The National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), was established in 1972 with responsibility to deliver water supply and sewerage services in 15 urban centres serving 2. 1 million people. These centres are Entebbe, Kampala, Jinja /Njeru, Mbale, Tororo, Soroti, Gulu, Lira, Arua, Masaka, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Kasese, Bushenyi/Ishaka and Kabale. The Directorate of Water Development is the leading water sector agency responsible for policy guidance, setting standards, co-ordinating and monitoring, sector reporting, and undertaking sector relevant research and development. DWD is also responsible for managing water resources including provision of oversight and support services to the local governments and other water supply service providers. DWD, 1991-2001 ) Other national level institutions that play important roles in the Water and Sanitation sector include Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MFPED), responsible for the mobilisation and allocation of financial resources including co-ordination of donor inputs and the privatization process; Ministry of Health (MOH), for promotion of hygiene and household sanitation; Ministry of Education and Sports(MoE), charged with promotion of sanitation and hygiene education in schools; Ministry of Agriculture, Animal industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), responsible for planning, coordination and implementation of all agriculture development in the country including irrigation development, aquaculture, and livestock development ; Ministry of Gender and Social Development, which addresses gender responsive development and community mobilisation; and NGOs working in the sector. (b)District level The District and Local Government levels as a whole, are responsible for the provision and management of water and sanitation services in rural areas and urban areas outside the jurisdiction of NWSC, in liaison with DWD. Their functions, responsibilities and powers differ according to the degree of decentralization so far implemented for both rural and urban water. Planning, implementation and operational management of water and sanitation activities in major towns remain the function of NWSC. However, of 143 small towns with a population of 1. million, 66 have been gazette as water supply areas, 61 of these have operational piped water supplies and schemes, of which 57 are managed by private sector water operators. Planning and implementation for water supply systems in small towns is still centralized at national level (MWLE 2005). Operation and maintenance is decentralised to the urban authorities and private operators through public-private partnership arrangements. The district water offices operate within the overall framework of the district local councils. The district offices are staffed with a multi- skilled team, in planning, hygiene education and social aspects. The district water team reports to the Works and Technical/Services sub-committees of their respective local governments.
At county level, technical officers have been posted to facilitate planning and supervision of construction works and overseeing maintenance of installed supplies. The communities are responsible for demanding for, planning, operating and maintaining water and sanitation facilities. (c)The Micro or User level At sub-county level, planning, implementation and operation and maintenance of the rural water and sanitation facilities are organised. These communities are also obliged to pay for urban water and sanitation services provided by NWSC and other service providers. Development of low-cost technology options such as springs, shallow wells, rainwater-harvesting tanks and school latrines are undertaken.
The district water office and national level technical teams support the sub-counties to carry out water resources assessment to identify potential areas for water development and sanitation services. The sub-counties assess the demand for water and sanitation services by the communities. This is based on population size and location and functionality of the existing facilities. At community level, the citizens are supposed to participate in the planning, financing, implementation, monitoring and control of community water and sanitation development. Communities submit requests/applications to the sub county for support towards water improvements. These are then forwarded to the district However, the level of community participation is less than the partnership, which it is meant to be.
Women who are majority users of Water resources constitute only a handful of people, dominated by men in accessing and managing these resources. The initial programme design and implementation under many previous projects does not fully address gender equity participation. 3. 0Integration of gender into Environment and sustainable development in the water sector In order to avert the rapid degradation of the environment, Uganda developed a National Environment Action Plan (NEAP), 1995, that adapted a gender approach in planning the long-term investment of managing the natural resources in the country. The NEAP makes a strong commitment to addressing environment problems and to sustainable development in a comprehensive manner.
The plan also argues for participatory approaches to environmental planning and the integration of gender analysis. The Uganda National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is charged with formulating national environment policies and providing guidance in the implementation, including environment impact assessment, and environment education and training in environment management. The main purpose of incorporating gender in the environment management policies was to enable men and women perform their duties in the best cost effective methods which will conserve the environment, accelerate sustainable development that would improve people’s way of living.
To achieve the above objectives there was need to formulate activities, which would contribute to the integrated promotion of sustainable livelihoods and environmental protection, covering various sectoral interventions involving a range of actors, from decentralised or local government level to lower levels, that are essential at every stage especially at the grassroots levels in the rural areas with special emphasis on the disadvantaged groups like women and youths. 4. 0ISSUES OF PARTICULAR CONCERN 4. 1Equitable access to water supply Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and essential for achieving gender equality and sustainable development. Most households, especially at community levels do not have adequate access to water and the children and especially women, walk long distances to fetch water for domestic use.
Water near the home contribute significant improvements in nutrition and health. The carrying of water over long distances is a health hazard. During daily water collection, women and girls face the risk of rape and injuries from attacks. A major issue associated with poor water supply and sanitation is a case with the Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) camps, in Northern Uganda which involves high risks of sexual violence and abuses committed primarily against women and girls, a danger often caused by insufficient water supply and sanitation facilities within the camps which prompt movements to get water from far areas and at homes poor hygienic conditions.
Over crowding, poor water pressure and broken water pumps accelerate the crisis (Diane Paul, 2006) Access to fresh water and sanitation therefore, does not only improve the health of a family, but it also provides an opportunity for girls to go to school, and for women to use their time more productively than in fetching water. Women in most cases are primarily responsible for the use and management of water resources, sanitation and health at the household level. Over the years, women have accumulated an impressive store of environmental wisdom, being the ones to find water, to educate children in hygiene matters and to understand the impact of poor sanitation on health and the environment.
Very often the decision about location of water sources, types of water sources, and who will maintain the operation of the facilities are made without consulting women resulting in no-one taking responsibility. Men, who mainly dominate the operations and maintenance of facilities in the water sector often do not fully implement decisions and actions thus the need to involve more women. 4. 2Equitable access to land rights and water for productive use Equitable access to water for productive use empowers women and addresses the root causes of gender inequality. Lack of access (ownership) to land, is seen as an underlying cause of women’s limited access to water.
In Uganda, women technically have little control and ownership on land under customary law in many of the Uganda ethnic societies statutory (national) law, there is, however, no discrimination. According to MFPED (2006), women own only 7% of the registered land in Uganda, a situation which affects gender mainstreaming in the Water sector, as women lack control over resources and therefore have limited decision making over issues like the silting of water sources, maintenance of broken pumps/taps/damaged bore holes/ water tanks and use of water for production. Land ownership is a precondition for access to water. Thus, land reforms that allocated legal land tenure to the heads of households or permanent agricultural workers (who are generally male) resulted in women losing any legal claim to water.
There is need of water for a range of small scale economic enterprises, like: home gardens in peri-urban areas ; growing fruits; poultry farming; preparing food, (which are some times overlooked in agricultural statistics). Overall, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports an increasing “feminisation of agriculture” due to wars, pandemics and the exodus of men seeking paid work in urban areas. Also mentioned is the fact that women are heads of an increasing number of rural households in the developing world and find themselves in the position of managing farm land and providing for their families alone, without legal rights to water and land. 4. 3Equity and Participation in the management of resources in the water sector The management of water resources has been mainly male dominated.
Men occupy a bigger portion in careers and training in water management than do women. Social barriers tend to restrict women’s participation in public consultations that can influence policies on water at all levels of water management. This prevents women voices from being effectively heard, particularly with respect to their environmental concerns and also results to limited effectiveness of water, sanitation and hygiene promotion efforts . Usually it is men who make the decisions over water management and sanitation issues and yet it is women who are usually in greater need for sanitation privacy and responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene.
It is worth noting that the process of formulating the Water and Sanitation Sub-Sector Strategy (2010/11-2014/15), which began in 2003-2008 (Water Sector Gender Strategy-WSGS,WSGS ), served as the first strategic framework for implementing Uganda’s National Gender Strategy within the powers of the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE). The WSGS I was developed in response to the various international commitments made by the Government of Uganda regarding gender equality and the National Gender Policy (1997). The strategy was aimed at developing and empowering approaches that would enhance gender equity, participation and access to and control of resources in the water sector.
The strategy further put emphasis on both internal and external gender mainstreaming including building capacity for gender planning, monitoring and evaluation; strengthening the capacities of partners and executing bodies for mainstreaming; and committing adequate resources for gender related activities. This is an outstanding move with good intentions of formulating gender equity and participation but unless the Ministry of Water and Environment comprehensively and consistently puts focus on gender concerns, gender mainstreaming in the water sector will not penetrate deeply into matters of policy and legislation. 4. 4Issues on Sanitation Sanitation refers to the drainage and disposal of sewage. The need to dispose human excreta appropriately is an environmental and social concern in the country. Ignoring it posses adverse impacts on environment cost and on health.
Lack of sanitation and poor hygiene are responsible for the transmission of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and other parasitic infections. These diseases have a big negative impact on the health and nutrition of communities especially the children. A focus on gender differences is of particular importance with regard to sanitation facilities which needs the attention of women to play crucial roles in influencing the hygiene behaviours of children, and men too can serve as role models in sustaining changes in disposal habits. Hence the success and effective use of water and sanitation facilities largely depend on the involvement of both women and men in selecting the location and technology of such facilities, and taking responsibility for operation and maintenance.
Sanitation concerns are mainly emphasized in urban and peri-urban centres and less priotised in the villages or lower communities/households. It is only under the urban and peri-urban strategies that water is directly linked to sanitation. The number of latrines at community level tend to be less as compared to size of the families needed to access them. Latrines are usually household initiatives sometimes rudimentary in nature. The water sector supply systems are relatively well developed and have mechanisms for delivery whenever necessary as compared to sanitation mostly at community level. There seems to be no well-developed mechanism for sanitation service delivery even at household level. Investment in water supply is highly priotised than sanitation.
The reasons why sanitation prioritisation is not key in the water and sanitation sector is because of the difficulty of estimating the sanitation measures especially for rural sanitation where the latrines are merely rudimental with varying degrees of safety which makes it difficult to tag costs of improvements, rehabilitation or construction of such facilities including lack of political commitment to sanitation. It was therefore easy to omit household sanitation and concentrate on institutional sanitation (MWLE 2005). 5. 0Linkages OF GENDER EQUITY with PEAP Goals Gender mainstreaming and improved access to water supply has two potential benefits; improved service delivery and health. Gender equity in the sector offers better services in the management and maintenance while water-born diseases are important issues of the disease burden in Uganda.
The sector goals are in line with PEAP goals as well as the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs). For example, the goals aim at the importance of gender in areas of agricultural production, legal discrimination and wood fuel, shortage of sustainable safe water supply and sanitation facilities, based on management responsibility and ownership by the users. It furthermore mentions inadequacies realised in the capacity to apply gender analysis skills, limited gender awareness among the communities, bureaucratic resistance in decision making and weak support in monitoring and supervision of sector activities as the reasons for low gender responsiveness. 6. 0Implementation Challenges
The Poverty Eradication Action Plan identifies the importance of gender mainstreaming in all interventions which include policy planning, formulation, guiding public actions to eradicate poverty and points out inadequacies in applying gender analysis skills, limited gender awareness among the communities, bureaucratic resistance among decision makers and weak support in supervision and monitoring. However, the importance of gender equity is not emphasised in the water and sanitation sector major implementation polices. Focus is targeted on poverty alleviation as an overall concern than gender. This limits coverage on gender issues and implementation. The insurgency in some northeast parts of the country and most especially northern Uganda, not only delays implementation, but also contributes to destruction of existing facilities. This contributes to delays in achieving the targets and the goals of the sector and PEAP.
Community gender involvement, while it is a good input for environmental sustainability, remains difficult to attain. Attempts have been made to involve the men and women in planning ,maintenance of water and sanitation facilities . The methodologies require a lot of skills and patience, qualities that are still lacking among the sub-county level civil servants. Women and the youth involvement remains limited as no major efforts have been made to involve them in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. 7. 0The way forward The paper has identified some challenges in transforming the water sector to achieve effective and sustainable services for both men and women.
Issues concerning gender and their roles in development process and thus environment have not been given adequate attention by development planners. Women are now viewed as a useful resource to be integrated into development process, thus rendering the projects more efficient and successful. What is the way forward for Uganda to ensure that gender issues are mainstreamed in environment and development plans, projects and actions? 8. 0Issues to be addressed (1)Having water points nearer the homestead will reduce the distance women and girls have to walk, thus allowing time for other activities, including training, childcare, growing food and income generation.
The latter could include construction and management of water and sanitation facilities. (2)It is essential that both women and men be involved in decision making processes regarding the provision, location and technology of water and sanitation facilities in the community and household. (3)Government should also address perceived inequalities between women and men through reviewing laws and policies that discriminate against women and also urge Non Government Organisations(NGOs) and the private sector to champion women’s cause, which might increase women access to land and more decision-making powers. (4)Women groups should be accorded recognition as citizens, land holders and contributors to the development process.
They need to have secure access to land and water for domestic use, in addition to productive use in farming including small scale industries. (5)Incorporate gender analysis into all development plans, projects and actions, by encouraging the development of new skills and expertise within an Integrated Water Resources Management framework, linking social and gender aspects with the ecological, technical and economic dimensions of water management with special attention at community level. (6)The water sector should change the attitude of value system in favour of only men, and develop positive perceptions about women as competent professionals just like their male counterparts. 7)Capacity building for all women should be geared towards effective participation in local governances and sustainable development. Women politicians should be strengthened to enable them represent women interests regarding water and sanitation management and maintenance. (8)The water sector should fill all established posts equitably for better performance. It has been found that projects in which women and men have an equal say have a better chance for sustainability and success because they cater for the needs of every one. (9)The legislation on industrial water discharge permits be amended to require all companies / major water polluters to register for discharge permits. 10)A specific percentage of investment in water supply should be dedicated to promotion of sanitation and hygiene initiatives for the welfare of the users and protection of the environment. 9. 0Conclusion The water and sanitation sector has developed elaborate mechanisms and capacity at national, district and community levels for planning and managing sector activities which includes gender and environment issues to a large extent. However, in order to address strategic gender needs, there is a need to introduce fundamental changes in ideologies and power structures, behavioral attitudes, in government, organisations, companies and involve individuals both men and women.

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