Strengthening gender-mainstreaming efforts in the WASH sector in areas such as Palestine, Syria or Lebanon means making a difference in the lives of women and girls, enabling adequate solutions to their needs and preventing hardships or affecting their daily life. In places like the West Bank, women may need to walk for 3 km by foot to get water. Liù Fornara, Country Representative in Palestine, tells us how GVC thought of a useful tool for Ngos operating in this sector aiming to respect women’s needs. This toolkit was designed with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, UNWOMEN and with the participation and interview of numerous Ngos.
GVC AND WATER IN PALESTINE One intervention after the other. From Gaza to the West Bank, and all of Area C under Israeli military authority control. In these areas, chronically among the most unstable in the world, GVC experts developed new techniques and put in practice new methodological approaches in the WASH sector.
Since 1992, GVC has been working in Palestine, committed to improving and increasing the outcomes of activities aiming to rehabilitate or reconstruct water infrastructures, giving access to water and equal distribution among the most vulnerable communities.
Today, GVC has extended its intervention in areas of Syria and Lebanon. Yet, after many years of experience in partnership with organisations such as UNICEF, GVC’s expertise from the field in Palestine proves fundamental in carrying out projects that develop effective and adaptive strategies to guarantee a right to water for all.
This is why the “Gender and Wash toolkit for Palestine”- created with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Italian Consulate and UN Women – is considered an essential tool by other organisations working in Palestine and all over the world.
Translating GVC and other organisation’s experiences in a tool that can replicate this expertise is an important result for GVC. Especially because the principles contained in the toolkit unite two different approaches: not only WASH but also the Protection Approach, an experimental method used by Ngos in different countries aiming to guarantee and identify effective solutions responding to the needs of the most vulnerable.
WHY A TOOLKIT FOR NGOs UN Women and OCHA raised the alarm with an analysis demonstrating that gender roles and needs are rarely taken into consideration in WASH interventions.
Often thought of as a technical sector, dominated by men engineers, it is widely considered as an intervention aiming only to build water infrastructures. GVC’s toolkit, on the other hand, sheds light on the most ignored and sensitive aspects of these interventions, aiming to spread adequate practices that better interpret the beneficiary’s needs and put in practice solutions to every-day problems. Therefore, this toolkit is a practical tool, easily accessible by all organisations that design, implement and evaluate projects in this field.
The analysed case study is one of the most significant: in Palestine, in Area C, West Bank and Gaza, competing for water means negotiating the survival of your own family members and the opportunity to carry out any work activity. In Gaza, 40% of the population receives water for only 5-8 hours every 3 days. 85% of this water is contaminated. In Area C, around 150.000 people do not have access to water and depend on water trucks that supply water once a week. Liù Fornara, Country Representative for GVC in Palestine, explains why it is necessary to adopt a gender approach in all sectors of intervention and in all countries in which Ngos operate.
INTERVENTIONS FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE “In A Palestinian village, an organisation built latrines and supplied them with electricity so that they could also be used at night – says Liù. - This, however, led the men in the village to use this light to play cards and socialise, preventing women from using the toilets. At night, women started going to the fields surrounding the community, exposing themselves to increased risk of violence. This is why it is essential to increase the exchange of best practices among organisations, to reduce the risk of inadequate sustainability within communities and interventions”. “In Palestine, water management and domestic hygiene practices are a women’s prerogative – she explained-. Nevertheless, women do not have decision-making power or control over the use of this resource. Too often, women do not participate in the identification of WASH initiatives, or in their direct implementation, if not as beneficiaries of the awareness-raising campaigns, even though they are often the most informed and responsible users – she continues-. The role of girls, women, boys and the elderly in the management of water resources differs from country to country; this is why it is very important to adopt a gender sensitive approach.”
“A clear case of discrimination against Palestinian girls is associated with menstrual hygiene: often sanitation in schools is inadequate, there is no water, no trash cans for sanitary pads, and no place to change privately-she concluded-. The obvious consequence is school absence and interruption in the learning process”. This is why identifying gender roles, specific needs of girls and women, the elderly and persons with disability, is a commitment, as well as a moral obligation, that GVC has undertaken to enable the design and implementation of effective actions, designed according to the real needs of people.