Giving Women a Voice on Decision-Making about Water: Barriers and Opportunities in Laikipia, Kenya

Citation:

Coulter, Janna E., Rebecca A. Witinok-Huber, Brett L. Bruyere, and Wanja Dorothy Nyingi. 2019. “Giving Women a Voice on Decision-Making about Water: Barriers and Opportunities in Laikipia, Kenya.” Gender, Place & Culture 26 (4): 489–509.

Authors: Janna E. Coulter, Rebecca A. Witinok-Huber, Brett L. Bruyere, Wanja Dorothy Nyingi

Abstract:

In more than 75% of households around the world in which water needs are fulfilled by retrieving water, women are typically tasked with this critical responsibility. This is true in Kenya, and the challenges women in rural areas of the country face are compounded by a lack of reasonable access to safe water by 56.5% of rural households. More than 25% of the population must travel at least 30 minutes to collect water, and 70% of all diseases in the country are water-borne (Kameri-Mbote and Kariuki 2015). Given their role as the primary household decision-maker about water, women have an astute understanding of water availability, access, quality and household use, and women’s perspectives would enhance decision-making in groups that address water resource management. However, women have historically been marginalized from participation in such processes for numerous reasons related to lack of empowerment, leadership, and voice, and the practicalities of the demands on her time that prevent her from having discretionary time to devote to civic processes. In this study, we interviewed 153 women living in three different watersheds in the Laikipia region of central Kenya about their views on water resource management, and interest in participation in water resource user associations (WRUAs) as members and leaders. Our results are consistent with prior research in that marginalization of women from WRUA participation is steeped in entrenched normative beliefs and behaviors about women’s roles and her domestic responsibilities, a lack of money to participate, and a lack of time given her other responsibilities.

Keywords: governance, Kenya, marginalization, women, water

Topics: Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Political Participation Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya

Year: 2019

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