SADC-GMI Capacitates Female Young Professionals in the SADC Region
Women are regarded as strategic users of water (WfGD, 2009), meaning they know and understand water resources management from a quality, reliability, source and location perspective. It is important, therefore, that women are an integral part of the process when decisions regarding planning, delivery, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation of water services are taken.
The big question is, how involved are women in planning and making decisions that impact water resources management?
As the water sector evolves, it becomes important that water institutions take Gender Equality and Social inclusion (GESI) issues as a matter of priority when planning and implementing water-related projects. Water and gender links SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, with implementation of SDG 6 on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. It is also linked to others, such as SDG 1, End Poverty, SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being, SDG 13, Climate Action, and in particular SDG. In support of Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI), SADC Groundwater Management Institute has always ensured that women played a pivotal role and benefited from the projects and Capacity Development initiatives implemented by the institute in SADC Member States.
In the past four years, SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) implemented a number of initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable groundwater management and capacity development activities, aimed at capacitating groundwater professionals/practitioners in the SADC region. One such initiative was a three-year Young Professionals Internship Programme which commenced in 2018. The Young Professionals programme was linked to three projects that SADC-GMI implemented, namely: Capacity Building on Groundwater Data Collection and Management in SADC Member States, SADC Groundwater Information Portal and SADC Groundwater Literature Archives. The programme delivered 65 young professionals internships drawn from 13 SADC Member States, 23 of those were for women. This programme provided the women participants with the opportunity to work with experts in the field and be part of the international community of practice where they shared knowledge and experiences.
According to Gender CC 2019 Berlin, October 2019 , in 2013 only 15% of countries had a gender policy in their water ministry, and only 35% of countries had included gender considerations in their water related policies and programmes. Including women in water governance roles is essential to allow an equitable and inclusive approach to hydrological resources.
Thokozani Dlamini, Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist from SADC-GMI profiled a few of the female young professionals who benefited from the programme and compiled the overviews below:
Ms. Thandeka Ngobe – Kingdom of Eswatini
Thandeka Ngobe is the Project Assistant Intern with Wateraid-Eswatini. She has been part of the Young Professionals programme from 2018 until 2020. She says the skills acquired during her tenure in the programme were data collection, analysis and storage skills. “Through the programme I managed to acquire experience by interacting with other young professionals to improve my scientific writing skills” she said. The programme also inspired me to further my studies and broaden my knowledge.
Thandeka is currently pursuing an MSc Degree through the University of the Free State, funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation through the SADC Groundwater Management Institute. She says the young professionals programme allowed her to draw inspiration from other young professionals who have advanced in the field and the mentors who guided them during the programme.
Pertaining to women representation, she thinks there are still very few Hydrogeologists holding managerial positions in the private and government sectors, and hence going forward, gender equality should be embedded in water policies in order to create an enabling environment and ensuring that women are well represented in the sector and their voice is head. She further remarked that funding opportunities and capacity development and empowerment for women should be made available.
Ms. Katia Antonio – Angola
Katia Antonio from Angola is currently occupying the Trainee position at the Ministry of Energy and Water, National Institute of Water Resources in Angola. She has been with the Ministry for the past 4 years, and her current position involves assisting the Institute’s Technical Department with data management.
Katia joined the young professional’s internship programme in 2019, through the SADC Groundwater Information Portal and Groundwater Grey Literature Archives projects. She says the programme made her a better person. It expanded her knowledge on groundwater management issues, not only in her country but throughout the SADC region as she got an opportunity to interact with young professionals from other countries and learned through their experiences and challenges.
Antonio says an equal representation of women and girls in water management and governance processes is essential for them to raise their needs and to bring in their strengths, experience and knowledge. “As women we should not allow criticism and “pull her back syndrome” to despair us, we should learn to rise above those challenging circumstances and be who we are supposed to be”, concluded Katia.
Ms. Ndineni Ngayaya – Botswana
Another female young professional who benefited from the SADC-GMI internship program is Ndineni Ngayaya, a Hydrogeologist at the Department of water Affairs in Botswana. Ndineni has been with the Department for 6 years and her day-to-day job involves groundwater monitoring, data management and reporting, borehole drilling and test pumping supervision. She first joined the SADC-GMI Young Professionals programme in 2018 under the Capacity Building on Groundwater Data Collection and Management in SADC Member States project. In 2019 and 2020 she was again nominated by Botswana to be part of the internship under the two subsequent projects implemented by SADC-GMI: Groundwater Information Portal (SADC-GIP) and SADC Groundwater Literature Archive.
Ms Ngayaya says the internship programme enhanced her confidence, skills and knowledge in groundwater issues. Ndineni says women are scarcely represented in higher levels of the governance of water and hence have less power and control of water resources. Laws and policies that compel the government and the private sector to take action in redressing gender inequality issues must be put in place and implemented. Recruitment practices that actively encourage women, capacity building and increased mentorship and sponsorship opportunities are required. Lack of mentorship, career development and pervasive stereotypes are some of the hindrances that prevent women growth in the sector. Ndineni says the programme helped her to build her resume, enhanced morale, networking, motivation, idea generation, creativity and access to exclusive information.
Ms. Reginalda Joseph – Namibia
Reginalda Joseph, a Hydrogeologist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Namibia became part of the SADC-GMI Young Professionals programme since 2019. Reginalda has been employed by the Ministry since 2016. “This program enhanced my understanding of how groundwater professionals can use different methods to manage their groundwater resources better”, said Reginalda. “As a Hydrogeologist, I benefited quite extensively from the GIS course, which was part of the programme. It taught me how to efficiently develop maps for my groundwater monitoring fieldworks”, emphasized Reginalda. Reginalda believes that strengthening women’s skills and access to information, knowledge, and technology through training and education could aid women in gaining more confidence to take up and occupy leadership roles in the private and public sector.
According to Reginalda, lack of skills and experience, unequal power relations and socio-cultural norms are some of the hurdles that prevent women from reaching their full potential in a male dominated sector. She also believes that it is important that the governments implement women friendly policies and encourage practices that promote gender equality in the workplace.
All four young Professionals expressed their gratitude to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA), World Bank, SADC Secretariat
and SADC-GMI for financially and technically supporting the Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States Project, where the Young Professionals programme culminated. They also urged sponsors to speak out against the lack of women representation in the sector.
For SADC-GMI, inclusiveness and gender sensitivity has always been a core value. SADC-GMI supports the Dublin Principle that women play a central role in providing, managing, and safeguarding water resources. The growing interconnectedness of gender, water, and sustainable development demand that we do more to ensure greater gender equity in all our efforts to properly safeguard and manage water resources for future generations.