How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

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  • LizWamera
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How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

Dear colleagues;

I would like to initiate a discussion on how gender stereotyping affects sanitation and hygiene programming results. This conversation may spark some interest in line with the current situation that the corona virus has put us in.

I will heavily draw from a publication that focuses on a desk review on engaging men and boys in sanitation and hygiene programmes (Cavil et.al 2018) that was a result of various organizations sharing their experiences across the world in relation to sanitation and hygiene programming. You can access this issue here: www.communityledtotalsanitation.org/reso...d-hygiene-programmes .

Cavill, S., Mott, J., Tyndale-Biscoe, P., Bond, M., Huggett, C., Wamera, E. (2018). Engaging men and boys in sanitation and hygiene programmes - Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, United Kingdom. ISBN 978-1-78118-461-5

Most sanitation programmes, in their mission to change (un)hygienic behaviour, only in some cases attempt to shift gender roles and power dynamics between men and women at the household and community levels. As such, sanitation processes may inadvertently reinforce gender stereotypes relating to women’s socially prescribed care roles and intrinsic motivation for sanitation and hygiene behaviour. Allow me to highlight one of the problematic aspects of male sanitation and hygiene behaviour and practice that would play a key role in stopping the spread of the Corona virus today.

Globally, men are reportedly less likely to consistently wash their hands with soap at critical times. (Cavil, et. al 2018) Handwashing promotion efforts that target men’s behaviours and practices can be used to trigger changes in handwashing (Maulit 2015). For example, the ‘Shit and Shake’ technique developed by Engineers without Borders in Malawi targets male practices and links them to hygiene behaviour change.

Care and the domestic work burden fall disproportionately on women in all cultures but the degree of this inequality varies. There has been a significant focus on increased hygiene and care roles in with the outbreak of Covid-19. Women have often been given the responsibility for household hygiene and sanitation – for instance getting water for handwashing, getting children to wash hands, keeping tippy taps filled, storing water safely, washing plates, cleaning toilets and so forth. Latrine cleaning, even of school and public toilets, often remains a woman’s role.

Unequal distribution of sanitation and hygiene work can reinforce gender roles and time poverty for women and limit their other roles and options within and outside the home. A shift in gender roles, with men taking some responsibility for cleaning the house, toilets, and the environment can help women and girls take on other roles and options within and outside the home including work and schooling.

There is a large amount of literature on men’s involvement in WASH processes, but much less on how men can partner with women to support them to participate in community sanitation and hygiene processes. Unless men are engaged in facilitating opportunities for women’s decision-making in WASH processes, a programme can inadvertently run the risk of increasing care burdens for women. Facilitating men’s partnership to support women in WASH processes is an emerging area in the WASH sector.

An example is shared in Nepal, Krukkert et al. (2010) reported that men were unlikely to attend hygiene promotion activities if they were ‘just members of the audience’. They are more likely to attend hygiene promotion activities if they are given specific roles. The authors recommended an information-sharing role or some sort of leadership role alongside women, this suggestion highlights the challenge of engaging men in ways that do not reinforce power inequality.

It would be very interesting to hear from the various members on this platform the steps that have been taken to ensure that men partner with women in delivering gendered sustainable programs. Of particular interest is the extent to which the engagement of men and boys in sanitation and hygiene processes is leading to sustainable and transformative change in households and communities and reducing gendered inequality.

The key questions we seek answers to include: how do we engage men and boys (or not)? How do we mobilize them as allies in the transformation of sanitation and hygiene outcomes? and how do we mitigate the problems that men and boys contribute to and/or experience?

PS: Attached you will find the publication that i have heavily referred to attached below.

I would urge you to stay safe, wash your hands and maintain social distancing until the corona virus passes.

With best wishes;
Liz Wamera
Elizabeth Wamera PhD
Technical Expert: Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Technical Support Unit
Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

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  • SeanFurey
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  • Water & Sanitation Specialist with Skat, mainly working for the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN)
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Re: How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

Dear Liz

Thanks for raising those important points. We have a live discussion happening in our RWSN Leave No-one Behind Community, and a great contribution from Priya Nath (WaterAid) on Monday shared some communication guidelines relating hygiene and COVID-19 (attached to this post). It starts with two important points that relate to how WASH organisations should avoid gender stereotypes in their communications:

Do: Use images and messaging which show responsibility for hygiene behaviours can be equally distributed.
Don't: Do not reinforce gender or other stereotypes – i.e. do not show only women doing the wash, cleaning or looking after children.

I think this is critical because many WASH organisations, including government, tend to use photographs and diagrams of children and women, but it is vital to emphasise the responsibility is also with men.

Sean

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  • LizWamera
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Re: How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

Dear Sean;

Thank you very much for sharing this critical points about gender stereotyping.

One of the major things that has emerged is that most times programs are designed in a gender blind manner and unless there are gender aware program staff involved in the design, the program would end up entrenching gender stereotypes and biased power dynamics.

From your contribution, its clear that it starts with us to ensure that our interventions are gender sensitive and then we are able to create awareness with our partners, collaborators and peers.

Looking forward to hearing more from other colleagues on this forum how they have managed to ensure that their programs produce gendered outcomes.

Thanks Sean for alerting us to this conversation led by Priya.

best!
Liz
Elizabeth Wamera PhD
Technical Expert: Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Technical Support Unit
Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
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  • paresh
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Re: How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

Dear Liz and Sean, 
I totally agree that getting the program design and messaging right is essential to ensure that they do not perpetuate/reinforce  gender roles. But also important from gender perspective is the use of right indicators to measure and monitor progress. In India’s SBM for example, the target is eliminating OD, but what was measured is construction of toilets. It led to a situation where the ground workers were more concerned about construction of toilets rather than their use.  My suggestion here is to clearly define gender based targets in monitoring of programmes. 

Further, as defecation/hygiene practices is an act of an individual, it needs to be measured through surveys of individuals and not households. By comparing OD as reported by household level questionnaire and surveying each member of the household, this paper found more open defecation exists than that reported through household level surveys. That is, we also need to move beyond availability of toilet or hand-washing facility and assess their use by individuals and reasons for use/non-use. 

On the earlier point of getting the message right, below are two examples of recent advertisements in India.

For promotion of Government of India's Swachh Bharat Mission and encourage households to build toilets, an advertisement  focused on the women's need of privacy.  After the toilets were constructed, women started using them but there is evidence (see example ) that men continued to defecate in the open. The message received in villages was that toilets are essentially for women and elderly (who can’t take a long walk); able men don't need to use them. (The other problem with this ad I realise now is that men are seen controlling women’s
behaviour and decision makers of the house) The advertisement was subsequently withdrawn.

On the other hand, another advertisement where a male actor (played a lead role in movie ' Pad Man ') is promoting use of sanitary pads has continued. In this advertisement, the actor is seen explaining to his friend (another male) health advantages (and entailing  financial savings) of buying sanitary pads for their wife. In my humble opinion, this ad hits the right notes and points out that menstruation is not only a women’s issue (as largely believed) but men have a role in ensuring safe menstrual practices.  

Regards
paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
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  • LizWamera
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Re: How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

Dear Paresh;

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on this and also pointing out some very interesting experiences from the India SBM! 

This is a clear indication that we need to think through the various aspects of our work to ensure that we do not promote or perpetuate any gender oppression or biases through our programs.

Our programs need to be a facilitator and an enabler for the various communities we work with to ensure gender equity in investing, resourcing, accessing and benefiting of the WASH facilities and services.

It would be interesting to hear more from other parts of the world on the experiences they have had in programming in relation to gender stereotypes.

Thanks once more Paresh for sharing the India experiences... great learning points on messaging!

Best regards;
Liz
Elizabeth Wamera PhD
Technical Expert: Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Technical Support Unit
Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
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  • Klawitter
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Re: How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

Dear all, let me add to the discussion with that we finally need to achieve parity in leadership positions.
While fundamentally a right, parity is increasingly necessary to the delivery of WASH service efficiency, impact. Greater diversity is directly correlated in both public and private sectors with significant gains in operational effectiveness and efficiency. There is an inverse relationship across the water and sanitation sector between seniority and women’s representation in NGO's, donor organisation, UN agencies, utilities, other service providers - while women represent more than 70 % of the frontline workers and are the duty bearers for health/hygiene/sanitation in almost all cultures.

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  • LizWamera
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Re: How Gender Stereotyping negatively impacts delivery of sanitation and hygiene programmes

Thank you very much for these comments.
This calls to mind the systemic disparities that we work with in improving access to sanitation and hygiene. Whilst most WASH programs set out to increase access to WASH, very few of them set out to ensure that there is gender parity in decision making whether it is at the household, communal or programmatic level.
This is great food for thought... how do we ensure that the 70% front-line workers are also represented at the decision making table, not as a tokenistic seat at the table but well earned due to the expertise and experience?
More interactions and examples are highly welcome!
Regards;
Liz
Elizabeth Wamera PhD
Technical Expert: Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Technical Support Unit
Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
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