Enlarging spaces for women sanitation workers

1 Gender, Equality, and Inclusive Sanitation Service Level » 1 Gender dynamics in service provision and value chain

Speaker: Ms. Mwangala Mulundano

Summary – for publication in conference brochure:


To achieve citywide inclusive sanitation services we need to integrate gender and social inclusion (GESI) approaches in our efforts to improve WASH programming and the FSM business. This could mean adopting a GESI approach in our research and analyses. The development of strategies that increase the representation of women and vulnerable groups in WASH programming and service provisions. But also making sure that their participation is meaningful and able to shape agreements and decisions. This paper presents SNV in Zambia’s experience in applying a GESI approach to address underlying gender-based issues that delay the process of achieving SDG 6.2.




Introduction, methods, results and discussion:


The past few years have seen the development of strategies, policies and guidelines to ensure the safe management of on-site sanitation services in Zambia. Despite these, little attention has been paid to the challenges women in the FSM business face, and how they can thrive in the sanitation business.




In an industry that is dominated by men, women entrants are changing the gender-constructed playing field. Among these include Mukuka and Elizabeth who have identified the lack of recognition/respect and limited support they receive from the communities they work in, as well as their colleagues – predominantly men – as their greatest obstacles. Being the only women FSM providers in Northern Zambia, Mukuka and Elizabeth have been called names, and have derogatorily been accused to be ‘overzealous and overly ambitious’ in their quest to make a living. Choosing not to lose focus from their service delivery, instead, both decided to invest their energies in working harder and proving that FSM is a business for men and women.




Under the multi-country WASH SDG urban sanitation programme, SNV in Zambia recently completed a baseline study that underscored the realities of sanitation access and programming in Kasama district and the capacity of sanitation actors. Key to the study approach has been the application of a Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) lens in exploring each component of the sanitation service chain. The application of GESI helped generate the evidence needed to strengthen inclusive approaches in WASH programming and influence change in wider WASH policy and practice. Some key findings include,


·         Low number of women in local governance (Ward Development Committees) to influence WASH in communities.


·         Low participation of Persons Living with Disability in WASH decision-making.


·         Low participation and attendance of women in WASH meetings.


·         Inadequate youth participation in sanitation services.


·         High rates of poverty and illiteracy among women.


·         Existing gender-based attitudes, beliefs and practices limit women’s participation in WASH.


·         Women who attended WASH meetings were made to sit at the back because according to the men, women have no experience in sanitation issues.




With partners in Kasama municipality, SNV is helping to enable an environment that encourages women’s participation in public and decision-making spaces. One institutional strategy being taken is strengthening decision-makers’ capacity to apply GESI in their work. For example, as part of a Community of Practice, District Water Sanitation and Health Education Committees are now tracking their progress in implementing GESI approaches in WASH programming by entering personal and or team learning and skills development in a learning log. Municipality staff are in the midst of developing a GESI action plan and aligning this with the district’s sanitation plan. The Department of Health has incorporated inclusive designs addressing the needs of children, women and people living with disabilities   for constructing new toilet blocks.   


Conclusions and implications:


The FSM industry needs the involvement of everybody for it to thrive. It calls for collective action to open up spaces for women to participate meaningfully in all key decision-making processes. Women’s representation at all levels (government, NGOs, commercial utilities, local authorities) is needed, as well as creating an enabling environment that encourages women to gain the confidence, speak up and ensure that their voices and opinions are heard and acted upon. There is also a need to continue creating awareness to end the stigma against women workers within the FSM business. All FSM stakeholders must understand that women, as men, have an equal role to play in FSM. Their involvement could potentially accelerate efforts to achieve SDG 6.2.


Relevant references:

Volume 1 Zambia Chambeshi Lukanga HH and SI Baseline Report
SNV GESI in WASH www.snv.org

Download Attachment