Cambodia: Rural Water and Sanitation - Can a Gender Action Plan Make a Difference? - 2009

October 2009

Women constituted 55.6% of participants in village level meetings on the formation of water user groups.(Photo courtesy of Mr. Nuon Pichnimith, MRD, Cambodia)

High levels of women's participation is reported in the CAM Tonle Sap Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project according to Mr. Nuon Pichnimith, project director, who delivered a seminar in ADB on how the Project Gender Action Plan is assisting the government to mobilize and involve women in the implementation of the Project. To date, 5,330 water and sanitation user groups (WSUGs) have been set up with 43% of women board members (15,105 male and 11,546 female members). Women also constituted 55.6% of participants in village level meetings on the formation of water user groups and information dissemination sessions on community management of ponds and piped water supply systems, and community-managed rainwater tank construction. Training of WSUG members for O&M included 53.7% women.

On 14 August 2009, Mr. Nuon Pichnimith, the Project Manager of the Tonle Sap Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in Cambodia delivered a seminar on implementing the project's gender action plan at ADB. The seminar was sponsored by the Gender and Social Development Committee and SESS/SERD. It was attended by more than 20 staff from the water supply and sanitation, gender, social development, agricultural and natural resources sectors.

Mr. Nuon Pichnimith, Project Manager, TSRWSSP. (Photo by Anupma Jain, SESS)

Mr. Nuon Pichnimith presented the rationale for developing a gender action plan in rural water supply and sanitation-bridging on the gender analysis initially done during project preparation and subsequently during project implementation. The gender analysis revealed that:

  • 75% of respondents reported that women and children are responsible for collecting water. During the dry season, they spend up to 3 hours per day collecting water with frequent trips and long queues at water points.
  • 65-75% of respondents said women are responsible for proper hygiene and for cleaning water jars and around the well area.

He also presented the gender framework - including elements of gender sensitivity, gender analysis, gender planning and gender mainstreaming; and examples of effective gender mainstreaming in project implementation.

Women's participation in Project activities is widespread. As of 31 August 2009, 5,330 water and sanitation user groups (WSUGs) have been set up, each with a 5-member board. Of the WSUG boards, the gender action plan for the Project requires that at least 2 members are to be women (40%). Actual figures show that 43% of WSUG board members are women (15,105 male and 11,546 female members).

Village-level meetings focus on WSUG formation and information dissemination for community management of ponds and piped water supply systems, and community-managed rainwater tank construction. During Quarter 2 of 2009, there were 181 village meetings in 127 different villages. Out of about 7,534 participants, 55.6% (or 4,187 participants) were women.

Women's partiicipation in project activities is widespread. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Nuon Pichnimith, MRD, Cambodia)

Dr. Mao Saray, Project Director, further explained the role of women in operation and maintenance (O&M) of water facilities. He informed staff that the Project trains at least 2 persons from each WSUG. The gender action plan requires that at least one (or 50%) of those trained is a woman. During Quarter 2 of 2009, water supply officers in project implementation unit, together with contractors, conducted practical training on hand pump O&M for WSUG board members in 93 villages. About 1,643 participants attended 148 separate training events. Of these participants, 53.7% (or 883) were women. The number of women trained in O&M exceeded the gender target, whereby at least one woman was trained per hand pump.

The inclusion of gender action plans in projects are significant if they are development in cooperation with Governments, contain realistic targets, use existing Government institutions and structures, and are based on a solid gender analysis. The impact and results of gender action plans in Cambodia projects will be further assessed through a study, starting in November 2009.