Home » EmGENDER Blog » #GenderJusticeMoments » EmGENDER call for guest posts: Water and gender in urban Malawi #WaterIsGendered #UrbanWomenAndWASH

EmGENDER call for guest posts: Water and gender in urban Malawi #WaterIsGendered #UrbanWomenAndWASH

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the commonly used image of women carrying water, Livingstonia circa 1910

the common image of [rural] women carrying water on their heads (Livingstonia circa 1910)


The #MalawiFloods have highlighted and exacerbated the ongoing challenges posed by ensuring sustainable access to water and sanitation in Malawi. After the floods the situation is even worse. Water and electricity connectivity is intermittent and unreliable. Whilst the worst hit areas have been declared disaster zones and have attracted international and national attention, the impact of the floods reverberates across Malawi. Before the floods people in the urban centres were struggling with water shortages. The Lilongwe and Blantyre Water Boards constantly failed to meet their customer demands and consumers spent days on end with dry taps. Whilst internationally funded and fundamental water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects target water crises in the rural area, the water crisis in the urban areas has  steadily worsened.

How much time do women in the urban areas spend thinking about water?

Who is responsible for ensuring that there are buckets under the taps and a plug in the tub for when the water should start? How do  women organise their lives to make sure that enough water is collected and that the water that is collected is made to last till the water board comes through?How often do women avoid using the bathroom even if they need to? Forgo the bath they are longing to have? Pass up on a glass of much needed hydration – all for the sake of ensuring that there is enough water to go around?

Women in Malawi experience time poverty due to inadequate urban services.

Throughout Africa women and girls are the main providers of household water supply and sanitation, and have the primary responsibility for maintaining a clean home environment. The lack of access to safe water and sanitation facilities therefore affects women and girls most acutely. (UNICEF). In urban areas, “[w]omen and girls typically take responsibility for fetching water when supply is poor, just like they do in rural areas, and this can take hours out of their day, reducing time for education, employment, childcare and rest. A lack of separate-sex toilet facilities in schools can cause girls to miss class or drop out of school in adolescence. These same processes take place in rural areas, except in urban informal settlements women are exposed to an extremely violent social environment with even fewer safe ablution facilities or amenities per head.” (CDKN Global).

Access to water is gendered, that is true for the entire country and for women living in a range of economic realities. You can be a lawyer in the city or a woman eking out a living in the village, the impact of water challenges will still rest heavier upon your shoulders than upon those of the men around you. So what now? What next? While the international donors are digging boreholes and well-ventilated pit-latrines kumudzi how are the town mice coping with the poor service-provision? This is not merely an issue of consumer rights, it is a HUMAN rights issue and more so, it is an issue of gender equality.


EmGENDER is working on compiling a comprehensive analysis of strengths and challenges in WASH for women within URBAN Malawi. “Development planners often see water as a ‘technical issue’, and the social, cultural and gender relations that surround water are overlooked. This affects public health, family welfare and the rights of women. The world currently faces a range of crises with environmental, economic, political and health-related dimensions, making water a key issue for all development researchers and workers. A gender perspective is essential. The mismatch between women as primary water-users and men as household, community and development decision-makers needs to be challenged and changed to realise the right to water for all, including the poorest and most marginalised. ” (http://www.genderanddevelopment.org/). Guest posts are invited that question a range of issues on water and gender in urban areas.

Post Requirements:
Posts should be at least 200 words and no more than 1000 words; however, submissions longer than this can be turned into a series. Make sure your posts are easy to skim (perhaps by adding headings and bullet points), are in your own words, and are factually correct. Photos, graphs, and charts are encouraged, but be sure to credit any sources that aren’t your own. After submitting to the email address listed below, posts will be subject to light proofreading before publication.

For submissions or more information, please e-mail contributions@emgender.org


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