Discussion sparked with Gender on the agenda during first day of FLARE

Over 110 participants from 19 countries and 29 Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (CS WASH) Fund projects across Asia, Africa and the Pacific have gathered in Brisbane for the four-day CS WASH Fund Learning and Reflection Event (FLARE), 1 – 4 August. The event aims to capture and share project achievements and lessons to build the WASH evidence base informing future activities. Providing a forum to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and learning with the wider WASH sector is important to improve the quality of work.

The first day began with a welcome to country from Traditional Owner Shannon Ruska. Michael Wilson, Assistant Secretary, Governance, Fragility and Water Branch, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officially opened the event, and highlighted the successes of the Fund.

The day was divided into two components – in the morning participants heard from the Fund Management Facility who set the scene for the week. Mark Ellery, WASH Facilitator, began by looking at Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 and the WASH challenges Fund Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will need to overcome in order to achieve sustainable WASH services for all. Mark spoke on the need for attention to now shift to building the evidence base for the impact on safe WASH. We know 87% of the population within CSO project countries have basic access to safe water and that Open Defecation declined from 250 million people to just over 100 million people but we don’t know how much of this is safely managed.

Following this Paul Crawford and Paul Tyndale-Biscoe (Monitoring, Evaluation and Review Panel – MERP) reported on Fund-wide monitoring and evaluation trends and the Context and Strategy Mapping and Change Agent Assessment Tool CSOs are using as part of their M&E practices. We heard from Paul Crawford that 40% of Fund deliverables focus on providing training to government and community partners – strengthening the enabling environment. Paul Tyndale-Biscoe noted that the M&E data tells us that we are validating the Fund’s theory of change and there is a trend in the data that suggests greater engagement with the enabling environment leads to greater sustainability .Wrapping up the morning presentations, Fund Knowledge and Learning Manager Bronwyn Powell discussed knowledge and learning trends among CSOs, before setting the scene for the week with an introduction to the FLARE objectives. 

Before the break Change Agents Pakoa Rarua (Ministry of Health, Government of Vanuatu), Huong Tran (Vietnam Women's Union) and Rinchen Wangdi (Ministry of Health, Government of Bhutan) joined Mark Ellery on stage for a panel discussion on their work with CSOs in the CS WASH Fund.

The second session began with a plenary presentation on Gender and WASH from Institute of Sustainable Futures (UTS) Professor Juliet Willetts. The presentation developed by Prof Willetts and MERP Team Leader Bruce Bailey provided an analysis of Gender in the Fund, reflecting on outcomes, achievements and highlight areas where further questioning and research is required. Reporting reflects that the majority of Gender and Social Inclusion achievements to date are in training. Juilet reflected that we now need to move beyond assessing how many people have been trained go to the next level, asking what has changed as a result of that training?

While the development of the evidence-base for gender is ongoing, as we near the end of the CS WASH Fund we are left with a number of questions and there is still much we don’t know. Juilet finished the session by leaving us with a number of questions to think about:

  • How do we monitor changes in relation to Gender and WASH?
  • What do we know about women’s workloads, have they increased as a result of our efforts?
  • How representative or widespread are ‘stories of change’ for women?
  • What difference (to WASH outcomes) does increased women’s participation have?

Final thoughts on Gender were that the ultimate target is to try and set up helpful synergies between increased gender equality and better WASH. To achieve this, we need to think more systematically about how we do this – focusing on women’s participation on WASH committees is not enough.

Following this plenary participants split into three groups for the parallel sessions on Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for Gender, Pro-poor targeting and financing and Strengthening women’s agency in the WASH enabling environment where Plan International, WaterAid, the International Rescue Committee, Thrive Networks, World Vision, Live and Learn, iDE and Save the Children shared their project experiences and reflections.

With this introduction to the week, we look forward to the rest of the FLARE program focussing on disability and inclusive WASH, hygiene behaviour change and strengthening the enabling environment.