Although collection of water for the household is considered women’s work, a pilot study conducted in the Asutifi North has shown that women are denied involvement in issues of Water and Sanitation (WASH).
The study, which employed the Empowerment WASH Index (EWI), a tool for ensuring inclusive and sustainable WASH services, revealed that 58 per cent of women in the area, despite their day-to-day responsibility for water in the house, were given little say in community-level or local authority decisions related to water and sanitation.
Speaking at a days’ forum to share the findings of the tool, Dr Elijah Bisung, Assistant Professor from the Queen’s University, said women at the household level’s input in the decision making of WASH expenditure needed urgent attention.
The event was part of the Department for International Development funded Reach Empowerment in WASH Project held under the umbrella of the National Level Learning Alliance Platform, being hosted by the Ghana WASH Resource Centre Network.
The Queen’s University Stockholm Environment Institute and International Water and Sanitation Centre, Ghana, jointly conducted the study that sampled 300 households in 20 villages.
Dr Bisung stated that while the magnitude of women’s disempowerment was greater, men at the rate of 40 per cent also faced some constraints including intrinsic agency in WASH, work balance, and inputs in decision making of WASH roles and responsibilities.
He reiterated that access to safe water and sanitation are critical for promoting empowerment in the WASH sector and for making progress towards Sustainable Development Goals 5, 10 and other inequalities.
Mr Jeremaih Atengdem, Water Expert at IRC Ghana, said the EWI tool confirmed the 2018 Asutifi North District WASH master plan, which showed that majority of the unserved population lived in the poorer and rural areas and that it would help development partners and government plan to address the challenge.
He said EWI could be used to monitor gender outcomes of WASH interventions and service delivery or support research on the links between access to WASH, empowerment, and wellbeing of individuals.
It aimed to close the evidence gap on the empowerment of sanitation and water security interventions and challenges identified by the EWI tool that could help address more structural changes.
Mr Atengdem said the findings from the EWI were promising and that WASH initiatives and interventions guided by the master plan could be effective in empowering individuals.
“The results from the EWI can help prioritize and target areas that stand to make the largest improvements. Effective policies and interventions need to be context specific, due to the large variation in social and cultural attributes,” he said