It is not only an epidemiological pandemic but a social one, that has uncovered the perpetual global social, economic, health and political inequalities. Lynda Keeru and Kate Hawkins report back from a recent webinar, ‘Exposing the cracks: COVID-19 and global inequality’. Hosted by The Gender, Justice and Security Hub this event brought together researchers to discuss whether the pandemic can be used as a disruption to the system – exposing cracks that can be exploited to confront power and inequality – or whether it is business-as-usual – exacerbating inequalities and privileging those with power.
Josephine Ahikire painted the clear divide that exists between the rich and poor in Uganda; further worsened by the pandemic. The wealthy in Uganda still move freely facilitated by permits issued to them by resident district commissioners. However, circumstances are completely different for the poor. They are the recipients of the strict lockdowns with minimal livelihood options. They can no longer meet their basic needs like putting a meal on the table as they depend on daily income and live hand to mouth. In an attempt to mitigate these challenges, the government put in place a ‘response for the vulnerable’ – a move in the right direction. However, this was slowed down by the process of identifying the vulnerable. That the government did not know who was vulnerable is alarming as they are the ones most affected by government policies. They are the people beaten on the streets, those who can’t access general healthcare, those that can’t find transport because public transport is prohibited and those who face hurdles when trying to access health services.
The situation in Uganda demonstrates the priorities of the government in investing in control and militarism than in facilitating the population to respond to the pandemic. This is an indication of the close connection between neo liberalism and rising militarism. Militarism is being legitimized as a response to a global health challenge and this is a pattern that is being seen in many other contexts.
Faisal Garba explored how existing inequalities had been exacerbated in South Africa, through the lens of migrant rights. In the context of refugee protection, countries are using COVID-19 to double down on closures to try and further isolate and marginalize refugees and prevent them from accessing what they are entitled to. Countries are using controls on migration to demonstrate their control of the pandemic.
South Africa adopted migrant blind polices in dealing with the pandemic. An example of this is a policy that was executed by the state at the height of COVID-19. A grant was issued to support families and small businesses. However, one of the eligibility requirements was citizenship. This meant that refugees – who were in critical need of food and other necessities – were excluded, deepening the divide between locals and migrants.
The long-standing fallacious belief that began during the HIV/AIDS era in South of Africa that migrants spread diseases has been upheld during COVID-19. The narrative being peddled is that the porous borders provide a gap for migrants to come into the country with COVID-19. State officials unfortunately amplify this message, creating false unity by selling the idea of citizens protecting their country and their country’s health from people who come in with diseases.
Surekha Garimella began by outlining how poor people have struggled for decades and that COVID-19 has brought this to the fore and in doing so made many people uncomfortable. In India the lockdown meant the cessation of livelihoods for many. The extension of women’s care work within the family, community, or for the state has been a considerable burden. Lack of access to health services and health system disruption has led to home deliveries and associated deaths.
During COVID-19 the most marginalized who most need to access protective measures were the ones who got the least. This is happening in a context where people have for decades lived with a huge basic need deficit. The implementation of the Disaster Management Act provided the state with huge power. This was wielded to regulate the lower classes to prevent them from infecting the dominant classes.
Surekha made a powerful intervention about the role of research and researchers in the pandemic response. She argued that the evidence used to formulate public health policies during COVID-19 does not adequately take the poor into account. There is a need to challenge mainstream conceptions of what evidence counts and go beyond the biomedical. This needs to consider that actions have different implications depending on the different societal divisions whether it be class, gender, caste, or geographical location.
“I learnt so much from the webinar and the engaged speakers, who are embedded in a range of different contexts, working to better understand and strategically address the multiple inequities that are amplified by COVID-19. It was excellent to bring learning together across three sister GCRF hubs, on social justice, gender and equity, and I look forward to further joint dialogue and action.“ Sally Theobald, PI, ARISE hub
Kirsten Ainley – Associate Professor of International Relations and the Deputy Principal Investigator of the UKRI GCRF Gender, Justice and Security Hub
Heaven Crawley, MIDEQ Hub
Faisal Garba – Teaches Sociology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and is the Co-Convenor of University’s Global Studies Programme and works with the Migration for Development and Equality Hub
Dr Surekha Garimella – Senior Research Fellow at the George Institute (@GeorgeInstIN), holds a PhD in Public Health, Gender and Work and works is part of the ARISE Hub
Dr Josephine Ahikire – Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences and former Dean, School of Women and Gender Studies and Co-Director on the UKRI GCRF Gender, Justice and Security Hub
Kenya’s progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 has been slow, with only 59% and 29% water and sanitation coverage, respectively (JMP, 2019). Sewered sanitation is currently available to only about 3.9 million people in 26 counties with 61% of these being within Nairobi County. 21 counties lack any systems for waste management (WASREB, 2020), while funding for sanitation remains low. With less than ten years to go, Kenya must act fast if it is to achieve water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Women and youth are largely responsible for household water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) management and bear a disproportionate burden when these basic services are lacking. However, they are often left out of critical discussions and decisions relating to water and sanitation. There is evidence that women and youth participation in water and sanitation decision-making and governance can lead to their social-economic and political empowerment and can enhance performance outcomes for the household and community (UN, 2019).
The ARISE team at African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) supported the Water Services Providers Association (WASPA), Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation (MWSI), Women in Water & Sanitation Association (WIWAS) and the County Government of Nakuru to hold the inaugural Youth & Women in WASH conference (Conference website) in Naivasha, Kenya from 30June – 3 July, 2021. The theme was ‘Unlocking potentials of Youth and Women for Sustainable Water and Sanitation Services.’
The Conference was officiated by Hon. Sicily Kariuki, EGH, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Water, Sanitation & Irrigation (MWSI). It brought together stakeholders from the water and sanitation sectors to share good practices, deliberate on prevailing challenges, and formulate strategies to leverage youth and women’s potential to accelerate the realization of universal access to potable water and safely managed sanitation services.
In her opening address, the Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Kariuki outlined the efforts her ministry was implementing within the Water Sector in promoting and championing women’s inclusion in decision making in order to empower them and improve services in the sector.
“When women and youth are incorporated in these sectors and in all sectors for that matter, the individual, the organization and the community is enriched,” she said.
Chief Administrative Secretary, Gender from the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Hon. Dr. Linah Kilimo noted that access to clean water and adequate sanitation contributes to the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She noted that the violation of these requirements was a violation of women and youths’ rights.
“Inadequate access to safe hygienic and private sanitation facilities is a source of shame, physical discomfort and insecurity for millions of women across the world”, she said. “In informal urban settlements like Mathare valley in Nairobi, women have to wait until it is dark to empty their bowels. As a result, they tend to drink less during the day resulting in all kinds of health problems,” she added.
The CAS reiterated government commitment to affirmative action funding for women and youth through the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs. She urged women and youth groups at the conference to take advantage of interest-free loans such as the Women Enterprise Fund, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and UWEZO Fund to develop and earn profits from water and sanitation projects.
The ARISE team at APHRC supported the conference preparation with Caroline Kabaria chairing the Scientific and Technical Committee. Blessing Mberu gave a keynote address on capacity development and research to optimise the untapped potential of youth and women in the WASH sector. In his address, Blessing highlighted the need for continuing demand for equity in bringing women and youth into WASH governance. Beyond the focus on existing positions however, he calls for focus on developing new and emerging frontiers in the sector where women and youth can offer leadership along the WASH value chain. Areas he identified included innovations using technology like e-payment platforms, designing, manufacture and distribution of gender sensitive sanitation products, WASH entrepreneurship and tapping into opportunities in capacity building and research leadership, where women generally have comparative advantage. He specifically called for investments in capacity building towards a critical mass of women and youth professionals for research leadership with training at Masters and PhD levels. He identified existing scholarship models for graduate training that can be amplified, and called for interrogation of the pathways of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in relation to recruitment, retention and career progression towards leadership and beyond. WASH is an essential sector and the overarching question is about how to mobilize our human capital in youth and women, train and engage them. The overarching answer is about evolving an inclusive productive process of inputs and outputs in existing opportunities, in creating new ones, new frontiers, and new models by and for those well trained, ready to engage and proceed. The pathway forward includes addressing structural hindrances. The youth of today will get older and their children – the young men and women of tomorrow – will end up in the same spot and crying the same cry of yesteryears and our today.
“Every generation has their challenges and ours is with us including how to build an inclusive equitable society and sectors, Let us do it collaboratively,” he concluded.
To amplifying community voices and the interface between citizens and government to build collective capacities, ARISE mobilized and supported six youths and women from Korogocho and Viwandani informal settlements to participate in the conference and make presentations. The participants from Sidarec, Slum-Tv Kenya, U-Tena Youth Organization, Ghetto fm Mukuru, Slum child foundation, and Fuata mkwanja exhibited their activities in water and sanitation in their communities.
“We got a rare and a unique opportunity to make a brief presentation about our work in the line of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene to Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Sicily Kariuki and other top delegation in our stand on the sidelines of WASPA Youth and Women Water and Sanitation conference 2021. We are happy to be working with African Population and Health Research Center, Sidarec, Slum-Tv Kenya, U-Tena Youth Organization and Ghetto fm Mukuru”, they said.
In addition, the community groups also discussed their work in a conference session in a joint presentation with Ivy Chumo, a Research Officer at APHRC and PhD Candidate at LSTM supported through ARISE Hub.
Two community initiatives were awarded second and fourth place in the Community Category of the Conference Innovation competition dubbed Vijaana and Dada Water and Sanitation Awards. The two were feted with other competitors at a gala event officiated by the Dr. Andrew Tuimur, Chief Administrative Secretary, MWSI.
The two awardees were part of community participants in a Youth and Women Water and Sanitation Forum co-hosted by ARISE in May 2021 in Naivasha, Kenya.
Women at the helm of water and sanitation
Pre- conference (Group Photos; From left; women group and youth group)
Video links (Blessing and Florence)
In addition, APHRC partnered with the Women in Water and Sanitation Association (WIWAS) to convene a session on Strengthening the Role of Women leadership in the management of WASH at the conference. The session, moderated by Caroline Kabaria, created a forum for women leaders in the various Water Service Providers (WSPs), WASH related institutions and communities to speak candidly on the challenges faced by women and youth in accessing opportunities in the sector.
“The engrained social norms which trickle down to prejudiced hiring processes and limited training and networking opportunities has been a major contributor to the unequal employment opportunities throughout women career trajectory,” said WIWAS chair Dr. Leunita Sumba in her opening remarks at the session.
“Career progression plans in most organizations are steep and the barriers placed by the male dominance in the sector make it nearly impossible for women and youth to occupy positions of leadership. It is therefore necessary for women and youths to be proactive but also have support from those in leadership to create a level playing field,” said Margaret Maina, Managing Director Limuru Water and Sewerage Company.
During the session, Amb. Dr. Mary Khimulu presented the UNESCO World Water Assessment Program (WWAP) call to action to accelerate progress towards the achievement of gender equality in the water sector. The call is to decision makers across the board to accelerate concrete actions towards the achievement of “water access to all without discrimination; promoting women’s leadership in water management and governance; protecting women’s water rights and applying gender-equal financing, narrowing the gender gap between policy and practice, prioritizing the collection of sex-disaggregated water data and counter-fighting norms and stereotypes that disadvantage women and girls.”
WASPA CEO, Antony Ambugo, pledged to support in strengthening WIWAS through continuous collaboration as well as recruitment of members from WASPA members. Other members of the panel were WIWAS Male Champion Eng. Simon Thuo, Beatrice Langat, a senior research Officer at Kenya Water Institute, Monica Tuli Ag. Human Resource and Administration Director at Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.
The women in leadership positions were also encouraged to create enabling environments for the younger generation as they work towards positions of leadership.
“Do you leave the door open behind you or do you close it?” asked Linda Gwanda, the Communication and Corporate Affairs officer of the Water Sector Trust Fund fellow panelists and the audience.
The main outcome of the session was to setup a deliberate effort by WIWAS and its members to start mentorship sessions for youth and girls at high school and college levels.
Sheillah Simiyu, Francis Onyambu, Phylis Busienei, and Ivy Nandongwa joined the ARISE team at the conference where eight abstracts and presentations were made based on various ARISE and Urbanization and Wellbeing in Africa (UWB) research at APHRC.
This blog was co-produced by researchers and co-researchers in Sierra Leone to share our experiences mapping urban marginalized spaces.
We conducted GIS mapping of three informal settlements to identify key landmarks, physical features, environmental hazards, health risk areas and social groups. The purpose of this work is to use the map to aid participatory data analysis that will identify key health and wellbeing challenges within communities and make maps accessible to community members so they can use them as they wish.
Building our capacity
Our Field team in Sierra Leone is comprised of eight researchers (three women and five men) and 15 co-researchers from across three project communities (seven women and eight men). Before taking up the GIS mapping of project communities (Cockle Bay,
Dwarzark and Moyiba), we held series of workshops to build our capacity as researchers and co-researchers on how to use GPS for boundary mapping and Open Data Kit (ODK) to map services. Workshops were facilitated by CODOHSAPA’s mapping expert (Richard Bockarie) and the team’s capacity and confidence were improved for the intended task.
“We also learned about the GPS and surveying; it was the first experience for some of us. We acquired technical knowledge. We listened to each other; we held meetings. If we made mistakes, we would find ways to correct them and go back on the field. The mapping exercise also allowed us to know our communities better and what the real boundaries are of our communities.” (Co-Researcher)
Organizing the team and completing the mapping
Eight days was allocated for boundary and service mapping across three communities (five days for boundary mapping and three days for service mapping). Three researchers and five co-researchers were assigned to the Dwarzark community, three researchers and five co-researchers were assigned to the Moyiba community and two researchers and five co-researchers were assigned to the Cockle Bay community. One community pointer was assigned to each community. Dwarzark and Moyiba had more researchers due to larger land size and rugged terrain which makes it difficult to navigate. With limited equipment two GPS and three phones were allocated to each community.
Informal settlements have unique power dynamics. There are local chiefs found across these settlements who were installed by the local government either as tribal or community chiefs. They are charged with the responsibility of regulating customary or bye-laws in their communities. Before our activities began, community leaders (councilors, community chiefs, chairmen and chairladies) and other relevant stakeholders were informed about our objective. This was intended to enhance community buy-in.
In the field, the bigger group assigned to each community was divided into sub-groups in order to cover more ground and efficiently manage time. We also agreed that groups should have a briefing before and after every exercise per day. This was to help us build confidence and address unforeseen challenges.
Reflection from Co-researchers on mapping community boundaries and services
A reflexive session was held after the mapping exercise with co-researchers and community pointers on the importance of the features mapped and the usefulness of the maps to their communities, successes, challenges and lesson learnt from the mapping exercise. The following reflections were share by co-researchers:
Identifying health and wellbeing issues and environmental hazards
“It is important to map the health centre. If the mapping shows that there are no health centres, we can show the government that help is needed. It gives us information on what should be improved.” (Co-researcher; Fatmata B Sesay Moyiba community)
“The health center is a key feature in the community because they help the community people. The environmental hazards are important to map also. In Dwarzark community, we do not have dumping site, so people use the drainage to dump the waste. But this is not good because if rain comes, it will overflow.
It is important to map these features to know what the issues are and to have improvement, for example constructing a dump site.” (Co-researcher; Zakiatu Sesay Dwarzark community)
“It was useful to map out important features within our communities. All of these features are important. In the Dwarzark community, those who are living in the upper part are very prone to disaster and deprived of certain facilities. Those who live down are a little better-off. These physical features are important to identify to gain in-depth understanding of the community.” (Co-researcher; Mohamed Sesay, Dwarzark community).
“All the features mentioned are important. The environmental features (flooding area and dumping area) are important to map. During this project, we categorized the communities as hillside or sea-side. The hillside communities have health hazards. Through the mapping and observation, we know where they are located, in which CDMC (Community-based Disaster management Committee, these are groups formed in every informal settlement to champion disaster mitigation activity within their communities.) were later notified, so that they would clean the areas.”
“The edge of the banking area is a particularly important feature to map. We need to identify this boundary. There are massive banking activities currently going on there which has changed the landscape of the community. Cockle Bay is situated on wet land and very prone to flooding.
We are very scared that one day high tide and heavy rain will happen simultaneously, which has never happened before, but if it does happen the community would be seriously damaged. We need to work as a community to prepare ourselves for this day. We wouldn’t be able to save our properties, but we need to be ready to save our lives.” (Co-researcher; Frank Bubu Kamara Cockle Bay community)
“The boundary mapping is also important; it helps the community to know what the boundaries are. For the seaside communities, it is important to map the boundaries because people are banking. So, in 5 years, we will be able use the map to asses and indicate the extent of the banking activity and the threat it poses to the community” (Co-researcher; Esther B. Sesay Cockle Bay community)
Supporting to strengthen accountability mechanisms to address identified challenges
“My position influences my access to services in the community. In hilltop areas, it is hard to have water access especially for young girls. So, we sensitized the water manager on this issue and allocated a certain time for young girls to fetch water to protect them. This allows us to reduce issues related to teenage pregnancies and early marriage.” (Co-researcher; Zakiatu Sesay Dwarzark community)
“I am also a community animator for NGOs working in my community. So, people know me because of this community work. It makes me feel good. I am also the community chairlady and I control 32 taps in the community. This taps really helps the community by protecting young girls from early marriage and teenage pregnancies. It also prevents school dropout by enhancing water access.” (Co-researcher; Jamestina Sia Bayo Moyiba community)
“I am a CDMC chairlady, so it is important for me to map out the dumping site to organize the CDMC team to clean these areas and reduce health hazards. All of the features are really important for me to map since they allow me to better understand and coordinate programme more efficiently.”(Co-researcher; Zakiatu Sesay Dwarzark community)
“We had to explain to the dwellers that we were not surveyors but mapping the community boundaries as part of the ARISE research project so that they would let us pass. We learnt a lot about the GPS mapping techniques. Now we are able to map anything. It also allowed me to know more about my community.” (Co-researcher; Saud Kamara Moyiba community)
Building capabilities and capacities
“There was a good working relationship between the researchers and co-researchers in the field as always. We divided the team in two sub-groups, but the information circulated well between the groups allowing the work to be successful. We would meet every morning and do a briefing on how to tackle challenges in the field. We were happy to do the work, so we got the best out of everyone. For most of the co-researchers, it was the first time we were doing this work, and we were very enthusiastic.” (Co-researcher; Mohamed Bangura Dwarzark community)
“The researchers were very caring and respectful to us which helped a lot to get the work done. There was a good working spirit, we ate together etc.… This good interaction really helped realize the work.”
“It is important to have good pointers that know the community well for the work to go faster and easier.” (Co-researcher; Jamestina Sia Bayo Moyiba community)
“We are happy because we learnt a lot. As co-researchers we did our work on our own. (Co-researcher; Issa Tuary Moyiba community)
Challenges in mapping informal settlements
Mapping informal settlements comes with lots of unforeseen challenges that might be encountered. These can range from challenges of equipment, personnel, personnel, time management, geographical terrains of communities or the community residents themselves.
We underestimated the size of Dwarzark and Moyiba community, so it took more days to complete. To complete the mapping than we had anticipated.
The GPS had a technical fault which also delayed the pace of work. There were also doubts about whether to map certain areas as informal settlements or not. This is because some community zones had massive properties. In the end, the contested areas were mapped since the technical team and community pointers (who were selected because they lived in these communities) gave directions on how to draw appropriate boundaries.
Community members in Cockle Bay were fearful when they first saw the team mapping the boundaries. Community members repeatedly asked about whether it was part of the eviction process. The intervention of co-researchers and the community chief, allayed their fears. The community Chief assigned one community stakeholder to us so we could explain our objectives to residents. With support from the co-researchers and community pointers we were able to gain their trust.
It was difficult to take photos and map out boundaries on the coastline in Cockle Bay due to high tides. As a result, researchers had to wait for low tides to continue, causing delays.
There were few incidents of accidental falls and minor injuries sustained by some co-researchers and researchers during the mapping exercise. They were taken to the community center for treatment and we tried to find better ways of navigating rugged terrain using ropes and support to each other to cross rivers and climb hills.
Resident in Moyiba community reported to us about incident of violence and robbery in a section of the community. That section of the community was inaccessible by the team for several days.
Although faced with many challenges we were able to complete the mapping exercise. It was a great experience for us all, as we learnt new things about our communities, exhibited great teamwork and had fun.
Upon completion of the boundaries and service mapping, a draft map was produced and a validation workshop convened. The validation workshop comprised of all those who participated in the mapping exercise such as researchers, co-researchers and community pointers. During the validation session, co-researchers were asked what they wanted to do with these maps within their communities and for ARISE data analysis. They stated that they want to use the map to advocate for development in their communities and also to change the behavior of people doing banking, building in hazardous locations and for proper waste management. We are continuing to support communities to take forward their priorities.
Produced by (Researchers) Samira Sesay, Abu Conteh, John Smith, Dr. Bintu Mansaray, Mary Sarah Kamara, Daphnée GOVERS, Samuel Saidu, Ibrahim Gandi and (Co-researchers) Mohamed Bangura, Mohamed Sesay, Zakiatu Sesay, Sinneh Turay, Hafsatu Kamara, Jamestina Sia Bayo, Fatmata B Sesay Suad Kamara, Issa Turay, Abdul Karim Kamara, Alieu Bah, Frank Bubu Kamara, Esther A Kamara, Abu Sesay.