Mauritius: Judicious use of water resources in Curepipe: a gender approach

Mauritius: Judicious use of water resources in Curepipe: a gender approach


Date: July 12, 2013
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Municipal Council of Curepipe
Presenter: Ruben Pillay Munien (Chief Health Inspector)

Over the last decades, Mauritius has been enduring relatively longer periods of drought, paving the way for more drastic cuts in potable water supply to the local population. Given the meagre three per cent of freshwater stock available on the planet, water scarcity is likely to become an ever-increasing problem in the near future. In 2010, the drought in Mauritius was so intense that people were receiving an hour of water per day in Curepipe. In an attempt to address the issue of water scarcity, the Central Water Authority has been undertaking a sensitisation campaign at national level, with a view to preventing people from wasting potable water. However output of this campaign fell short of targeted results.

After the awareness campaign organised by the Municipal Council of Curepipe in 2010/2011, encouraging people in Curepipe to plant trees and to do backyard composting, the council resolved in 2012/2013 to embark on a new climate change campaign with regard to scarcity of water from a gender perspective.

Women are at the centre of climate change. Making up 70 per cent of the world’s poor, women are more likely to suffer as a consequence of climate change, especially in scarcity of potable water. This is equally true for the women of Curepipe. During the severe drought of 2010, women in Curepipe were not receiving potable water for days and weeks, and this affected their lives. They had to find ways to perform their domestic chores.

Relation to the SADC protocol

The good practice involving a gender approach to the judicious use of water resources in Curepipe adheres to the targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. Article 12 (1) of the protocol stipulates that at least 50 per cent of decision-making positions in the public and private sectors are held by women. In the Municipal Council of Curepipe, decision-making is governed by a council comprising of 15 councillors of whom 7 are women. Decisions regarding campaigns such as this one are unanimously supported by the whole council. While devising the action plan relating to this activity, article 12(1) was taken into consideration and nearly 50 per cent of the stakeholders convened in those meetings to take decisions were women.

Article 15 (1) requires the equal participation of women and men in policy formulation. During the implementation phase of this project, the above article was considered and both genders were equally targeted.

Background

Water is the most vital natural resource. One can live without food for months, but will not survive for a week without water. The bonds between human beings and water are primal, with a long history that spans both ancient and contemporary cultures. Climate change is most evident in weather events that are more extreme than those that communities have commonly experienced. People take water for granted, and see it as someone else’s problem, not theirs. However water scarcity is a growing concern in Mauritius, including in the township of Curepipe where the council receives numerous complaints about water problems. The Municipal Council of Curepipe is responsible for its inhabitants and knows its population well. The council therefore decided to find a way to address this issue by coming forward with an active campaign for the judicious use of water resources in Curepipe.

 

Water problems clearly affect women more than men in their everyday domestic chores, and so the council opted for a gender approach to this issue.

Objectives

The project aims to demonstrate to the population what the water situation will be if we take this limited resource for granted, and to make the population aware of the vital importance of water. It therefore embarked on an active awareness campaign on how to make judicious use of potable water before it is too late, involving both genders in the decision-making process and the participation phase.

The campaign helped people to understand how climate change is related to water scarcity, how women are particularly affected by the effects of global warming, and that we have to adapt to these changes.

Beneficiaries

Judicious use of potable water needs to be adopted by everyone, from children to adults. Surveys indicate that campaigns at the national level are not bringing the required changes in mind-set when it comes to judicious use of water resources. The following groups were targeted in Curepipe: households, community and non-governmental organisations, students in 26 secondary schools, students of 16 primary schools, women’s associations, youth clubs, religious associations, and senior citizen’s associations.

Process

The implementation plan of the campaign, using the slogan “Curepipe en guerre contre la gaspillage d’eauÀ, was based on a council paper for a policy decision approved on 18.07.2012. Meetings were then held with different stakeholders to fine-tune the action plan, and municipal staff were briefed by the Central Water Authority on the house-to-house distribution of campaign awareness material. House-to-house distribution of pamphlets on the judicious use of water resources took place, followed by talks in youth clubs, with women’s associations, and NGOs in community centres, the launching of a PowerPoint competition in colleges on the subject, and the launching of a poster competition in primary schools on same subject. Talks and PowerPoint presentations were given in educational institutions and during religious gatherings.

Main outputs

To ensure the success of this campaign, the Municipal Council of Curepipe had to ensure the collaboration of the Central Water Authority (CWA) in terms of a resource person and campaign materials. Also important was the participation of municipal employees, including site inspectors, gang-men and refuse collectors. Banners, posters, pamphlets, stickers, campaign pens, PowerPoint presentations and video clips were produced.

The intervention required the use of laptops and projectors, and the securing of municipal funding (Rs25 000). Prizes worth Rs40 000 were sponsored by the CWA.

Main outcomes

Overall there has been a more than favorable response in terms of the outcomes. All the different targeted groups have been exposed to the issue of water scarcity. There has been positive feedback at grassroots level (primary school students), and parents are being informed by their children of the importance of judicious use of water resources in Curepipe. Women’s organisations have been closely collaborating with the project, and have come to appreciate the gender dimension in water management. Educational institutions, households and other institutions understand the need to adapt to climate change, and rainwater harvesting has already started in Curepipe. Primary and secondary students have shown their interest in and understanding of this vital issue in their participation in the posters and PowerPoint competitions respectively.

We have observed in some institutions (and even at household level) through our evaluation questionnaires that people have understood the issue, and are making judicious use of this vital water resource.

Challenges

Because most people viewed water shaortage as someone else’s problem (not their own), we initially faced some difficulties, especially involving participation of men in our talks. We had to find ways to convince the population that water is vital, that it should not be taken for granted, and all must make judicious use of it. Prior to the awareness campaign research had to be done to understand the subject in depth, so as to be in a position to impart all the information to the population. There were questions from students which the panelists delivering the talks sometimes had difficulty answering immediately.

The talks addressed to the different target groups had to be adapted to the specificity of each group, ranging from children to women to senior citizens. There were some difficulties during the house-to-house education, including people who were were reluctant to listen to us, dog attacks, rainy weather, and finding a time of the day when people are at home.

The team working on this project devised ways to adapt to all the challenges that cropped up, and took steps to ensure the smooth running of the campaign.

Lessons

From feedback questionnaires and evaluation surveys, we learnt that 75 per cent of adults interviewed took water for granted, and thought it was not of concern. Women were more concerned about water scarcity than men, but 95 per cent of children showed concern about this issue, and supported the judicious use of water. Primary schoolchildren showed their concern through the posters submitted for the competition organised by the council, and a surprising number of secondary schoolchildren were involved in the campaign through the PowerPoint presentations which they submitted for the competition organised by the Council. More girls than boys participated in the competitions. Initially 76 per cent of people blamed the authorities for not making enough effort towards water management, but 81 per cent of the people who attended the talks and PowerPoint presentations organised by the council agreed to start harvesting rainwater for washing cars, watering plants and other uses. Women and girls participated actively in the campaign, whereas men were less interested. The rate of women’s participation in this project justifies its gender dimension. Women need to have a say in any decision-making regarding water management and related issues, as they are more affected by water scarcity.

Replication and sustainability

This project is sustainable, and can be easily replicated in other regions of Mauritius through municipal and district councils, together with all the stakeholders. Such campaigns do not require substantial inputs in terms of logistics and finance, and most stakeholders are willing to contribute fully in this type of project.

The campaign itself is an everlasting campaign, and should be transmitted from one generation to another. The judicious use of water resources should become a natural reflex action. Campaigns related to climate change should be included in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools.


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