Woman’s Crucial Role in Collective Operation and Maintenance of Drinking Water Infrastructure in Rural Uganda

Drew Grenier

Joe-Yee Yip

Peyton Graham

Molly Sykes

Professor San Martin

(Water Energy-Food Nexus)

Topics in Environmental History

Naiga, R., Penker, M., & Hogl, K. (2017). Women’s Crucial Role in Collective Operation and Maintenance of Drinking Water Infrastructure in Rural Uganda. Society & Natural Resources,30(4), 506-520. doi:10.1080/08941920.2016.1274460

The authors are researchers in the areas of humanities and science. Penker and Hogl are professors for an Austrian University focusing on environmental studies and the third author Naiga is in the department of developmental studies in a Ugandan University. The background available for all three authors is limited which questions the legitimacy of the research, however all three authors are affiliated with universities which supports the legitimacy of their research.  

The publication is a scientific journal article written by researchers in Austria and Uganda addressing the important roles that women play in maintaining the access to drinking water in Uganda. It introduces the history of poor water supply governance in Uganda and the different roles gender can play in the distribution/control of water. It defines an analytical framework and an area of study in which data is sampled and collected.

Accessibility and quality of water has been a problem for generations and effects millions of people around the world. Recently, Uganda has implemented Water User Committees to manage water distribution and quality. This article explains the pivotal role women play in the operation and maintenance of drinking water in Uganda.

In a Ugandan village, women “bear the brunt of inadequate water access, as they are expected to walk long distances in search for water, which puts their safety at risk, but also are expected to care for the sick family members as a result of waterborne disease on top of their domestic class” (Resty Naiga et Marianne Penker et Karl Hogl, 2017). On the other hand, men’s role in water management relate to purchasing of household water containers and fetching water for commercial purposes and for their animals. In addition, males typically take 95% of what their female partners earn. This article aims to demonstrate how these gender differences influence water management.

The data collected in this article is collected from simple random samples of multiple villages throughout Uganda and based off interviews with WUC members. It was found that female respondents were four times more willing to contribute water user fees, and they were more likely to trust WUCs. Also, the data shows women are more willing “to contribute and trust in local governance organizations are key for an effective implementation of the demand-driven approach that depends on financial and in-kind contribution from water Users” (Resty Naiga et Marianne Penker et Karl Hogl, 2017). In addition, the government proposes working alongside the local communities to provide education and improve literacy  This would provide women a better opportunity to for women be elected to the WUCs and make an impact on their communities.

Women have much higher stakes in the long-term access to safe water than men. Therefore, a strategy that aims to increase the likelihood of water user contributions to the operation and maintenance of water infrastructure has to be built on formal and informal participation of women in local water governance.

While it is widely apparent that the research conducted by Resty Naigaa, Marianne Penkerb, and Karl Hogl, along with the Society of Natural Resources is backed up with significant data and statistical analysis from the demographic of Ghana. It can be observed that there is a gap in their extensive data that is failed to addressed, even though it may seem that a rather large amount of evidence pointing to the importance of women’s role in water resource management and procuring. This is the issue gender roles, and the of source of income within the average Ugandan household. On page 507 of the article it states, “In addition to the 5% contribution toward capital costs of new water infrastructure, water users are also expected to participate in major decisions such as making an application for water, selecting a type of technology, selecting the water source location, electing Water User Committee members, and collectively engaging into O&M-related activities such as payment of user fees and labor toward water source protection”(Resty Naiga et Marianne Penker et Karl Hogl, 2017). With Ugandan men contributing to 90% of household income as well control over 90% on their spouses income(according to a 2018 study conducted by The Guardian) it is easily apparent why women continue to lack validation in the role of water infrastructure and management in comparison to their male counterparts. And with this notion on top of all the existing stereotypes enabled by the men of Uganda, such as lack of knowledge, strength, and ability to work outside the household, it is no wonder why women continue to be stuck in their ways during a time when the government has granted them a right for more involvement with the enactment of a demand-driven approach in water provision. Furthermore this lack of women participation laborious tasks in the Ugandan community(that is not to say taking care of the household is not a laborious task) may also explain why 32% of the females that were interviewed in the study regularly attending WUC meetings compared to only 27% of male interviewees. This point is based solely off the perception that a male is more likely to become worn down during the course of the average day(making and staking brick, which was mentioned twice in the article) than women who are confined to repetitive household tasks.

The two points described in the paragraph above are not used to criticize the work of the authors of this article but to emphasize and validate the points they were making throughout by providing real and current Ugandan gender statistics and commonly assumed perception about labor. If the authors were to continue their study or strengthen their current statistics and idea these points would be crucial in enhancing their argument.

The scientific journal presents a connection between the minority group and their inability to easily get access to water. This connects to the management of drinking water in urban settings such as in the cities Istanbul and Chicago. In both cases there was limited access to clean drinking water which limits the growth and wellbeing of the community. In both scenarios the lack of usable water directly affected the ordinary people forcing them to restrict their usage of water which limits the economic mobility of the economy, restricts population growth and negatively impacts health. The cases of safe water access in both rural Uganda and in the urban cities of Istanbul and Chicago the lack of infrastructure caused deadly issues, however in the urban cities public distress in alarming numbers and location close to majority groups allowed for the development of technology to offset the lack of usable water. In the case of rural Uganda there is lack of majority groups seeking help for the issues regarding lack of usable water making the solution to water related issues challenging.

The ideas presented through the scientific journal would be further supposed with more research regarding Ugandan gender statistics and labor statistics since currently such research is lacking. The article encourages more research into the connections between water management and procuring and gender. The connection between women and water management issues encourages more researchers to analyze the relationship between environmental issues and gender in other areas.

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