Partnering to embed gender transformation into WASH

Hannah Edwards, Partnerships Advisor

22 March 2023


Invest in water, empower women

Wednesday 22nd March marks World Water Day and this week, the UN is holding its first Water Conference for 40 years. At these critical moments it is good to reflect on how NGOs and the Private Sector can work together to ensure that everyone has access to clean and safe water and that the process of access is gender inclusive and empowering.

CARE International UK, CARE Kenya and Diageo have just completed a pilot programme in Kenya to make Water Management Committees at community level gender inclusive by design – purposefully accessible to everyone, regardless of gender and other intersecting identities.

This pilot highlighted how necessary it is for businesses to ensure that everyone within value chain communities have equal access to water. Effective water management is a critical tool to challenge harmful gender and social norms and to provide women with the opportunities for leadership and representation within their communities. These communities are often on the frontline of climate change, facing water scarcity, and most susceptible to illness and disease.  Businesses need to ensure that access to clean water is safe and convenient for everyone, such as reducing the burden on women and girls to walk to collect water, freeing up their time to engage in paid work and attend school, as well as reducing the risk of exposure to gender-based violence whilst collecting water. In addition to building community empowerment and resilience, access to water creates greater sustainability for crop production and builds resilience within value chains, making it critical for businesses to improve water access.

This pilot worked with the community through community dialogue sessions and conducted a Gender Power Analysis (GPA) exercise to understand the existing social norms and the barriers that these were placing on women’s participation in water committees. From this, the project team were able to extract tools from CARE’s existing Social Analysis and Action (SAA) toolkits and adapt these for the community to help them better understand and address the negative impacts of gender inequality and how this effects equal access to water. CARE have now created a toolkit from this pilot encompassing the GPA, SAA tools and facilitators notes for this to be adapted and scaled up in other Diageo sourcing markets. CARE and Diageo are embracing working in more flexible ways and will continue to adapt the toolkit to specific context and ensure that the approach is always driven by the needs of the communities and not taking one size fits all approach.

This pilot is an exciting first step in CARE International UK’s ongoing implementation work with Diageo and will be trialled in small-holder farmer communities and expanded to address business skills and training, to ensure that community members within the Diageo value chains, are empowered and embed gender transformation. It is critical that businesses, such as Diageo, are willing to pilot new and innovative ways of working with NGOs to create sustainability within their business model and to learn from CARE International as a leading gender expert, with the commitment to take these pilots to scale across all aspects of their supply chains.

Moving forward we hope to develop more long-term community programmes that look to embed gender transformation inherently within Water Management Committees and across all Water programmes. It is critical to note that this 6-month pilot does not allow for significant social norms change, as this is a process that takes place over years of dedicated effort and resource. Therefore, we ask businesses to look at how they can use pilots and innovative sprints to be an initial steppingstone to long-term approaches to embed gender equality and community resilience.

Business with CARE aims to take a holistic approach to working with the private sector to ensure that businesses work internally to improve their approach to gender equality, as well as tackling this within their supply chains and community programmes. The strategic partnership with Diageo is a strong example of this working in practice, as this pilot is an innovative way to test tools and concepts with communities, whilst continuing to strengthen applying a gender lens to internal policies and practices.

This pilot on creating gender inclusive WASH, and the ongoing strategic partnership that CARE International UK has with Diageo, demonstrates the need to make programmes inclusive by design and to tackle the root causes of gender inequality in order to realise gender transformation that contributes towards lifting women and girls out of poverty. For all companies, water is very much a limited resource and so it is critical that they work in partnership to ensure sustainable access for all communities within their supply chain and develop innovative solutions for value chains at scale.

Would you like to know more?

Does this sound like the type of strategic partnership that you and your organisation would be interested in? Get in touch with Hannah Edwards, Partnerships Advisor in the Business with CARE at CARE International UK:

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