Zimbabwe: water is a gender issue


Date: September 13, 2012
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Name: Water, women inseparable

Name of publication: The Herald online

Name of journalist: Ruth Butaumocho

Date: 13 July 2012

Country: Zimbabwe

Theme: Climate Change

Skills: Perspective

Genre: Feature

Gem classification: Gender aware

Description
This article is about gender dimensions of access to clean water in Zimbabwe. The writer argues that water shortages are exacerbating gender inequalities yet most governments are not putting efforts in involving women in making decisions about water. The question is what difference would women bring if they are included in decision making? This media highlight analyses an article written by a female journalist about the links between women and water.

Headlines
The headline is relevant to the article as it draws the reader’s attention to read more and understand the water-women nexus.

Sources
The article is reported from a first person point of view. Almost everything in the article is conveyed from the writer’s experiences, observations and thoughts. However, in paragraph ten of the story, the writer paints a picture of how women are being underrepresented in water issues as opposed to being at the core of it. She writes that “…there are only 40 women ministers of water or environment across the globe…” without giving a source of the statistic. Further, in the following paragraph, the writer alleges that “…Zimbabwe is not far lagging behind in terms of women representation in all vital sectors of the economy…” without giving figures to substantiate that the country is “not far lagging”. The reporter could have sourced this information from secondary sources such as developmental reports that might have been done regarding women, economy and water issues in Zimbabwe. Assuming that she read or heard this somewhere, it could have been important to acknowledge the source. Acknowledging information source in newswriting authenticates the story.

Language
The article uses gender sensitive language and it does not convey any stereotypes.

Visual image
The story does not use a picture. However, the writer could have taken and used a picture of women hauling water from boreholes, unprotected sources and/or waiting in meandering queues to fetch water from a borehole. This could have reinforced the writer’s argument raised in the story that women bear the brunt of water shortages.

Story angle
Overall, the writer argues that in Zimbabwe – like many other countries in the world, scarcity of water disproportionally affects women. She reasons that this calls for women to be part and parcel of decision making on water issues.

The writer paints a vivid gender dimension of the problem by telling the reader what she saw while driving one late night in Chitungwiza: “I came across hordes of women carrying containers with water,” she writes. “…it is not unusual to come across meandering queues as early as 3am….at a time when most people will be sleeping.” It is from this observation that the writer first draws her argument that women face hurdles in fetching water for household use and this is linked to traditional roles that are attached to them.

In order to concretise her argument that inclusion of women in water issues is possible and makes the difference, the writer gives three African countries that have women ministers responsible for water. The author also gives an example and impact of the “Women in water” awards and bursary – an initiative introduced in South African targeting young women wanting to pursue career in the fields of water science, water engineering and water technology.

However, the article does not bring out the extent to which women are represented in water issues in Zimbabwe. Including this in the story would have informed the reader, policy makers and any other interested stakeholders what ought to be done in as far as inclusion of women is concerned.

Further, in order to deepen the article’s depth, the writer could have also included how scarcity of water exposes women to gender based violence like rape and physical abuse by men. The writer could have also included that inadequacy of clean water directly impacts on household health which women also shoulder – for instance providing care for HIV patients. Water shortages also forces women to spend much of their productive time in fetching water a thing that denies them equal opportunities to take part in economic activities that could empower their lives.

Training exercises
– What statistical information could be used in the story to substantiate the writer’s argument?
– Suggest initiatives that could be taken in your locality to enhance access to clean water?

Other training resources
Mainstreaming Gender in Water and Sanitation – literature review on gender, water and sanitation for the South African Department of Water Affairs (DWAF)
IWD: Access to clean water remains a challenge for rural populations – An article published on Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service
– Gender mainstreaming in local government: Gender and the economy module

 

 


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