April 13, 2024

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Empowering Communities: Gender Equity and Resilience in Bugesera WASH’s Sector

Within the framework of the project “Strengthening Capacity for Sustainable Climate Resilient and Gender Sensitivity WASH in Bugesera District” initiated by WaterAid Rwanda, The Rwanda Young Water Professional (RYWP) embarked on a mission to increase the capacity of the district Local Leaders and Communities in effectively managing water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

Through a series of comprehensive training sessions that covered various aspects of WASH implementation; they engaged 20 journalists, 120 WASH champions (comprising sector social affairs officers, sector health, and sanitation officers, people living with disabilities, teachers, water user committee members, social influencers, youth volunteers, and health center environmental officers, where 80% of whom were remarkable women).

Additionally, the initiative reached out 50 teen mothers and single mothers, 107 local leaders representing all sectors of Bugesera District, 29 religious leaders, and school headmasters as well as 49 entrepreneurs.

The project played a crucial role in prioritizing gender sensitivity in WASH and promoting inclusivity and equality within Bugesera District because all the training sessions that took place fostered Gender-Sensitive practices and facilitated economic empowerment, particularly through climate resilient practices approaches, thereby advancing sustainable WASH activities.

The project included transformative activities that examined and addressed the social and gender power dynamics that perpetuate structural inequalities. It had the specific goal of improving WASH outcomes in Bugesera communities at the same time. This frequently includes both gender-specific and integrated activities, such as empowering Bugesera women to participate in the decision-making in water governance.

The project also encouraged Bugesera men to actively participate in water, sanitation, and hygiene activities at home, challenging the misconception that these responsibilities solely fall upon women. Through community mobilization approaches, it aimed to raise awareness and promote behavioral change, emphasizing the importance of shared responsibility in household hygiene practices.

During one of the training sessions, Jeanine KABANYANA, from WaterAid Rwanda highlighted the opportunity to promote equality and inclusion in household WASH.

She said, “Men and boys, for example, can work together to transform harmful gender dynamics and bring about long-term change. This project aims to address gender and social inequalities while mobilizing activities.”

She added that understanding all of the work done with families and communities is critical to value the various types of work. This can help to avoid unfairly or unintentionally increasing workloads.

Kabanyana emphasized the importance of understanding and valuing the diverse work done within families to avoid increasing workloads unfairly. She also emphasized the benefits of women and marginalized groups’ participation in natural resource management, promoting sustainability and equity in WASH governance.

Through various training sessions, Bugesera residents have adopted strategies to break some gender norms and involve men in Gender-Sensitive WASH practices, where some of the gender norms are: the societal expectation that women and girls bear the primary responsibility for collecting water, maintaining sanitation, and hygiene practices.

Some of the strategies they trained in engaging men in WASH activities are targeted messaging, community mobilization, role modeling training, and capacity building through Partnership with male role models.

Women in Bugesera face challenges accessing safe sanitation, leading to increase health risks such as urinary tract infections. Limited menstrual hygiene resources affect their dignity and well-being, this highlights the necessity to advance Gender-Sensitive WASH initiatives for family development.

Prior to any training, inclusivity was ensured through detailed community mapping, involving people with disabilities, single mothers, teen mothers, and community influencers, where they were not only just about transferring knowledge but also igniting passion and fostering a sense of responsibility toward sustainable Gender-Sensitive WASH practices.

The training sessions helped the participants especially teen mothers and single mothers to learn how to promote good hygiene at home and effectively manage water resources. This led to a positive shift in the Bugesera District community, with increased awareness, and active engagement in sustainable WASH practices.

As Ndagijimana Theoneste says they used to go from the Mwogo sector to fetch water in Nyamata, it is understood that it is a difficult situation for a woman and it requires men to understand the importance of participating in searching for water for the family. And this project continues to distribute water to different sectors of the Bugesera region including Mwogo, where it will be fully utilized soon.

Ritha NISHIMWE, a member of RYWP, emphasized that training women helped them to increase their capacity to lead in the management of water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructures. The goal was to empower women to have a voice in water-related matters, considering they have disproportionately affected water scarcity and sanitation issues.

She said, “We hope that this project, would enable women to voice their concerns and opinions, leading to positive outcomes in the future.”

Ritha said that the RYWP team observed a fundamental issue of gender equality and harmony during the trainings. It was noted that the community perceives water collection and sanitation activities as totally the responsibility of women and children, and this consequently leave them burdened with household chores hindering their personal development.

Furthermore, the project provided training for local leaders to facilitate the active participation of both men and women in water, sanitation, and hygiene activities. This aimed to promote gender-sensitive and climate-resilient WASH planning within the district while ensuring balance. It also emphasized the importance of conveying the message to men that these activities concern all members of the family.

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