Field visit observations of Chiddinatta Water Supply Scheme by WASH Advisor Gumma Nepali and Governance Specialist Nirajan Shrestha
Sarkegad Rural Municipality is a rural municipality located in the Humla district of Nepal. Humla is the second largest and northernmost district in Nepal, bordering Tibet. It is also one of the poorest districts in Nepal, with the lowest literacy rates. The majority of the population speaks Nepali and follows Hinduism. Sarkegad has a population just under 10 000 people and is divided into eight wards.
In ward number 1, in the southern part of Sarkegad Rural Municipality in Humla, three hours from the nearest roadhead, you can find the SUSWA supported Chhidinatta water supply scheme. The scheme is new, as there is currently no functioning water supply for the ward, with households getting their water from an open source by overland pipes. The water quality is especially bad after rains and the quantity is not continuous. There has been no maintenance or repair system.
Some of the goals SUSWA has in supporting the local government in Sarkegad, Humla are to
- provide sustainable and quality drinking water and facilities 24 hours a day;
- support a maintenance system for previously unmanageable drinking water structures
- raise awareness about drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in the community.
- change traditions and thinking related to menstrual hygiene management.
- develop good governance, with a transparent, participatory approach including e.g., public auditing, in the community
- develop the necessary policies and regulations at the local level for equitable access to WASH for all
Through Chhidinatta scheme, SUSWA is supporting a new water supply scheme with private tap connections. The work has been progressing as scheduled, below you can read of current progress at the scheme during the monitoring visit:
- Based on a detail design estimate, 5 reservoir tanks (RVT), 3 intake tanks, and 32 taps have been planned for the scheme.
- All local material, such as sand, stone, and wood, collection work is completed.
- Non-local materials, such as pipe and cement, have been transported to the scheme site by mule and/or porters.
- The reservoir tank foundation excavation work is complete.
- The digging, laying and covering of a 1500-meter transition pipeline has been completed.
- Tap-making work is under construction, with most of the tap GI fitting for the tap stands already completed.
What made this scheme stand out during monitoring, was the fact that the work is lead by women.
Women-lead Chhidinatta Water Users and Sanitation Committee (WUSC)
The population of Ward 1 in Sarkegad has a female majority, which is reflected in the WUSC. See the population structure of ward number 1 below.
|SN||Scheme Community||Household||Female||Male||Total Population|
|04||Person with disability||6||6|
|05||Household head female (single)||4||4|
There are a total of 11 committee members under the Chhidinatta Water Users and Sanitation Committee, who are the ones who lead the scheme construction, maintenance, tariff gathering and so on, on community level. 6 members are women and 5 are men, with two of the women being Dalit.
Dalit is an umbrella term for so-called caste groups in Nepal (and India) that have historically faced discrimination and marginalization. Dalits in Nepal are more likely to be poor and lack access to WASH services compared to other groups. They often live in remote areas with limited infrastructure and basic services, which makes it difficult for them to access safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. Additionally, they can face social discrimination and exclusion, which further limits their access to resources and opportunities.
According to SUSWA WUSC formation guidelines, the WUSC composition must be proportional and reflect the population of the Ward. Dalit inclusion has thereby been secured in this important decision-making committee. The Ward 1 WUSC has also been recommended to include one person or a representative for persons with disabilities. WUSCs are required to include women in key positions. In Chiddinatta WUSC, which is in a female majority community, they have taken this further with all key positions held by women – and the community is very happy with the progress so far. The WUSC chair-person and deputy chair-person are both women.
According to the WUSC chair, 32-year-old Kampani Budha;
“All vital positions are being led by women, and so women are encouraged to work for the construction too. From now on, we will ensure 50 % involvement of women, not just as members but in vital positions in every program. Before, women were only considered for general member positions in programs and committees.”
Surata Budha, deputy chair of the WUSC, adds to this;
”Now we are understanding that women’s role can be in the vital and leading positions.”
Both the chair and deputy chair view a woman-lead WUSC as an opportunity. “This water scheme is being run under the leadership of women, under which women will be able to show their ability”. Some of the positives they list are:
- Women’s participation in other schemes is more likely to increase after the success of this scheme.
- Both women and men in the community trust the woman-lead WUSC to not misuse funds and it has been easier to gather labor donations and financial contributions for the scheme from the community.
- Women lead WUSCs feel pressure to ‘prove themselves’ and will therefore ensure high quality and transparency in their planning and activities.
- Most of the men in the community are supporting the WUSC to make it successful.
However, having a newly elected WUSC consisting of leaders who have not worked in WASH before also comes with some challenges:
- For all financial transactions, the WUSC representatives must travel to Sarkegad headquarter for the bank, which is considered challenging by some of the women in the WUSC and they feel they are not trusted by men to do so.
- Lack of previous experience and skills, due to not having been elected to work for WASH projects before, makes the work more challenging.
- Lack of quality measurement infrastructure at scheme area and lack of experience in using existing tools, such as measuring tape, for quality control.
- Lack of long-term planning due to lack of experience, e.g., regarding proper waste water management.
- Due to the lack of previous training, WUSCH is facing a challenge to keep clear records of workers and finances.
- There is an overall shortage of human resources with required skill in the area.
During the latest visit to the scheme, the WUSCH presented solution measures to these challenges:
- Now the WUSC is taking support from SUSWA / Sarkegad social mobilizer for bank visits and for documentation work.
- Now all WUSC leaders ad members are learning, with the support from technical staff, how to take general measurements and ensure quality of work in simple ways, such as checking the different ratios of mixing of cement, sand and aggregate for different works.
- The WUSC is now planning to manage the waste pipe to use the waste water for irrigation purposes in the village.
- The WUSC is now hiring skilled labor from the neighbor village, to share their skills with local workers.
Addressing patriarchy through a WASH project like SUSWA
SUSWA working communities in Humla are patriarchal. Patriarchy refers to a social system where men hold power and authority in society, while women are subordinate and have limited access to resources and opportunities, such as limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. In Nepal, patriarchal norms and values are deeply entrenched in society and are visible in various aspects of life, including family structures, social relations, and cultural practices. The patriarchal system also affects men, as it reinforces rigid gender roles and expectations, which can limit their emotional expression and relationships with others and in Nepal e.g., create tension and pressure to provide for an extended family.
The patriarchal structures in Nepal can limit women’s involvement in WASH projects in several ways. Women often have limited access to education and training, which can make it difficult for them to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to participate in WASH projects. Additionally, patriarchal norms and values can limit women’s mobility and restrict their participation in public life, including community meetings and decision-making processes related to WASH projects. Women may also face discrimination and harassment from men in these settings, which can further discourage their participation.
SUSWA supports municipalities and communities to address these challenges and promote women’s involvement. For example, efforts are being made to address these issues through policies and budgeting (with inclusive policy & budget workshops organized in Sarkegad in May 2023), involving women’s groups and community leaders to ensure that women’s voices are heard and their perspectives are taken into account in decision-making processes, as well as providing training and support to women to enhance their skills and knowledge in WASH-related areas, e.g., ensuring equal participation of women and men in Village Maintenance Worker training. Paid opportunities, such as work for the construction of a water scheme, is also required to strive for gender balance.
Further, Water Users and Sanitation Committees, who lead the water scheme construction on community level, are required to include women in key positions. In Chiddinatta WUSC, they have taken this further with all key positions held by women – and the community is very happy with the progress so far.
Below you can see some World Environment Day celebrations from 5.6.2023 in Sarkegad: