Water Resources Management in Africa and the Role of Women

Policy Brief

02/03/2016

Planet Earth is nearly a perfect blue sphere. The blue colour reflects the enormous amounts of water on earth. Nevertheless, this apparent abundance is an illusion. Only 2% of the visible blue landscape is fresh water. Strengthening further the restrictions for fresh water, only about half of this 2%, is available for use by the growing world population. Since 1950, the world population doubled; whereas, water use has tripled. The issue of water scarcity, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, is emerging as a very important issue for many countries. In particular, in countries where “fighting” to expand the use of drinking water, dealing and managing the existing quantity of water is a challenge.

It is widely known that the role of women in most African societies is limited to the transfer of water. The access of women to clean drinking water is limited within the role of women in the following tasks: taking decisions related to water use at home, ensuring the health of family members, health and suitability of water and even the access to water. This limited knowledge of the role of women has led to a misconception of governments and organizations, on the primary interest of women, namely the management and safeguarding of water at household level.

Apart from the household, however, women in Africa deal with tasks that have economic benefits for themselves and for their families, such as trade of cooked food, brewing beer, and operate tea kiosks. Still it is widely considered by governments and by designers of water resources management programs that water directly related to economic production, agriculture and industry, it is more important than the household-related one, therefore, women remain excluded from agriculture and irrigation programs.

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