Understanding Barriers and Challenges for Women’s Access to Water in Northern Rwanda

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water access
water source map
Human Geography
Water Resource Management
Women's Studies
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Alvarez, Helina
Sample, Amber
Bruyere, Brett

Clean drinking water and sanitation have been acknowledged as basic human needs and rights by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. According to the UN, water must be sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, and safe in order to meet human needs. In this study, a survey and a Water Source Mapping participatory method were employed to investigate a sample of Rwandan women’s access to water. Two hundred and seven (207) women were surveyed regarding water use and access, and results were compared based on education levels and membership in income-earning cooperatives operated by a local organization, the Gorilla Guardians Village (GGV). In addition, 26 GGV cooperative members completed a Water Source Mapping activity that explored where women collected water and the challenges they faced in doing so. Descriptive analyses indicated that a majority of women reported insufficient water access, regardless of education level and membership in cooperatives. The Water Source Mapping indicated that women primarily use a free, GGV-operated tap for water, although water is not always available at the location due to breakages and other challenges. In those instances, women travel long distances and pay more money to collect water at other locations. The results of the study indicate that women’s access to water remains a challenge, even for women with high levels of education, opportunities to earn income, and access to a nearby water tap. We argue that strategies to provide reliable access to sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, and safe water must be thorough, taking into account infrastructure, women’s education, household income and other factors simultaneously to address the entire social-ecological system in which water is accessed in order to achieve desired outcomes.

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