Messages to utility managers on International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day, AquaFed is issuing a call to utility managers on behalf of their women staff and leaders, to take three specific actions that will increase gender equality in the workplace.

The recommendations for actions come directly from a group of leading women working in African sanitation and wastewater utilities. They are:

• Mentoring – more male mentors are needed to step up and help women in a structured and systematic way, focused on women’s work and career objectives.

• Continuous development – give women equal opportunities to train and develop their careers.

• Focus on the simple practical steps – for example, ensuring equipment and clothing come in women’s sizes, or organising safe travel for women staff to and from work. These things make a huge difference.

There is also a really strong message from women in utilities to their female colleagues – to trust in themselves, believe in themselves and trust their instincts.

Sadly, none of these are new recommendations and are at what women working in utilities have been saying for many years. These actions have also been highlighted in various reports, including the World Bank’s Women in Utilities – Breaking Barriers report. However, this highlights the work the sector still has to do to ensure women are appropriately represented and get equal opportunities.

We will be promoting these actions to the World Water Forum and getting them heard wherever possible, including at a networking and mentoring event that AquaFed is organising for women in the sector. This event will be for the more experienced ones to pass on their knowledge and wisdom about career progression and leadership, to the up and coming young women stars we have in our sector. Look out for more details on the networking event soon.

The actions were recommended by a group of leading women in African sanitation utilities, who spoke at a recent webinar called: Women in Utilities – the driving force behind urban sanitation. This was organised by Aquafed and hosted by the GIZ. It was part of a series of webinars based on urban sanitation organised by a group of partners including GIZ, SuSana, GWOPA, AFWASA and AquaFed.

During the webinar, the speakers gave very clear examples of how to implement the actions mentioned above.

The webinar about women utilities had the biggest audience of all the webinars – this sends a very clear signal that the issue of gender equality in utilities is extremely important.

A huge thanks to our speakers, our ‘Queens of Sanitation’:

• Euphresia Luseka

• Margaret Maina

• Koena Mabitsela

• Aya Mohammed

• Chadia Riahi

• Henrietta Osei-Tutu