Gender bias or gender role? Contributions to water management in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries

Traditional gender roles in Malawi are keeping women from performing needed water management practices. Photo: Kate Harawa.

Shouldn’t we strengthen the existing roles of both males and females of Malawi, rather than focus on defining new roles/empowering women and youth?

This was the most though provoking question asked at the Think Tank Meeting for the Advisory Committee on Science, Technology & Innovation (ST&I) for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Agricultural and Rural Development.

After an invigorating presentation by Malawi native and gender specialist, Ms. Olivia Mchaju Liwewe , lively and expressive discussion took center stage at the meeting. Ms. Liwewe shared her piece on Women and Youth: the untapped Agents for Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Green Economy.

Following the presentation she made a brief highlight of The Africa Water Vision for 2025 and the Malawi National Water Policy. Ms. Liwewe concisely spoke of the fact that Malawi women, on the basis of gender roles, do not participate in water management – or rather, they are not allowed!

She explained that due to gender roles women are not able to contribute to water management decisions within the agricultural sector. However it is precisely due to this state of affairs as major water collectors and users that women and youth have made specific observations and practices that could unlock the key to sustainable water management in the country, which is not being tapped.

Subsequently the question was posed: is it true that there is no need to empower women into different roles, but that their current roles are good enough? Ms. Liwewe stood her ground and reiterated that these very roles bar women from making viable contributions and taking certain actions, simply because it is not their job. These roles are limiting and they are barriers to women. They are not empowering and therefore they should not be strengthened.

She concluded that “Women and youth, due to their knowledge could be the desired platform for the green economy that will result in improved well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks in water management and ecological scarcity”

Blogpost by Keron Bascombe, one of the GCARD2 social reporters.


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