MS in Engineering Science (M.S.E.S.)
Degree Granting Department
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Maya A. Trotz, Ph.D.
James R. Mihelcic, Ph.D.
Fenda A. Akiwumi, Ph.D.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Climate Adaptation, Stakeholder Engagement, Equality
According to the World Resources Institute, Barbados is one of seven Caribbean countries ranked as being the most water stressed territories in the world. Prevailing drought conditions for the period 2010-2016 further compromised its water security while confirming predictions of a drier regional Caribbean climate. The simultaneous failing of at least 50-year-old water infrastructure at many points in the distribution network adds to these water stress conditions, and presents a financial burden to the local water utility in the form of lost revenues, and increased energy consumption for pumping.
Climate change and its impacts are not gender-neutral, and water infrastructure projects developed to mitigate and or adapt to climate change impacts will have different degrees of gender dimensions, based on the social and economic contexts within which populations are embedded. Incorporating gender differences in climate projects is smart economics, and as such the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is the first international fund to mandate the integration of a “gender-sensitive approach” throughout project life cycles. The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is applying, with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (5Cs), for funding from the Green Climate Fund to pursue an Energy-Water-Nutrient Nexus for Sustainable Coastal Infrastructure (EWN-SCI) project. The proposed project will develop an interdisciplinary program in Barbados that implements demonstration sites with integrated water supply, resource recovery, and renewable energy management systems that are designed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, support climate change adaptation strategies, build technical capacity in the Caribbean region, and share lessons learnt with the rest of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.
The overall goal of this research is to present practical guidelines, and approaches to mainstream and operationalize gender throughout the life cycle of water and wastewater infrastructure projects using an Energy Water Nutrient nexus project in Barbados. The objectives to guide this research are (1) to determine the institutional and legal frameworks that inform the types and extent of gender mainstreaming activities to be incorporated in the development of water and wastewater climate infrastructure projects in Barbados, (2) to characterize the current landscape for integrating gender into the design and management of water and wastewater infrastructure in Barbados, and (3) evaluate and recommend opportunities for gender integration in the life cycle of water and wastewater infrastructure in Barbados.
Literature and tools for categorization of the gender dimensions of water and wastewater infrastructure (centralized and decentralized) projects in Small Island Developing States, and particularly Caribbean nations to determine the scope, and type of appropriate gender mainstreaming activities are limited. In the literature, gender equality as a goal of climate financing mechanisms was introduced retroactively for several multilateral climate funds due to sub-optimal project outcomes from gender blind projects. Projects implemented by these funds globally, post inclusion of explicit gender equality outcomes can provide direct, or indirect guidance on appropriate gender mainstreaming activities to be included in the development of water and wastewater infrastructure projects in Barbados. Case studies on water and sanitation gender vulnerabilities in Jamaica provide one of the few ideal sources of information on Caribbean gender mainstreaming activities.
To inform objective 1, literature on Barbados’ population, socio-economic statistics, and national gender and climate change policies was used to determine the status and scope of institutional and legal commitments to gender mainstreaming the development of water and wastewater climate adaptive infrastructure in Barbados. To satisfy objective 2, a gender profile of technical and leadership roles at the BWA was created, and social media information, results of a water user survey, focus groups and interviews were analyzed to gain cultural context, and community insight on existing gender inequalities, impacts resulting from the types of water infrastructure projects pursued and their methods of implementation. The survey, focus groups and interviews were conducted in Barbados during the period 10/20/16 to 11/8/16. This period was characterized by unprecedented water shortages and interruptions which were reflected in the feedback from the data analysis. For objective 3, gender impacts of the infrastructural components of the EWN-SCI projects were described, and opportunities to address these concerns across the individual infrastructure project cycles were proposed.
There are currently no legislative commitments to gender equality in water and wastewater resources management in Barbados. A Draft National Policy on Gender is presently before parliament but the policy does not address gender and water. The BWA has more men than women employed in technical (45% vs 3.5%), and leadership (9.1% vs 3.9%) roles which directly contribute to the design and management of the utility’s projects. Most of these individuals are in the middle or near the end of their careers (> 40 years of age), and thus present a timely opportunity to recruit, train and promote women to fill these roles.
On social media (Facebook and Twitter), many individuals described the challenges experienced during the water shortages. Individuals also criticized the BWA for their lack of communication during this period. The lack of an online presence by the BWA represented a lost opportunity to engage its stakeholders on collaborative solutions that could temporarily or permanently alleviate the challenges.
The water user survey revealed a statistical significant association (p ≤ 0.05) between gender and type of water storage container used at the household level. Men were more likely than women to report use of larger plastic buckets and tanks, while women showed a preference for smaller buckets and bottles. Identification and consideration of design parameters such as preference for type and size of storage receptacle, system elevation, position of cleaning access point, and need for a pump will facilitate or limit the successful adoption or adaptation of rainwater harvesting systems. The proposition of a research arm of the utility that could study gender dimensions of health impacts of water quality and water interruptions, and economic studies assessing feasibility of introducing a tariff structure on water provision were priority projects from the BWA. Investment in equipment at the national government lab, and at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Chemistry Department represents a skills building and economic empowerment opportunity for women who form the bulk of workforce at these institutions.
The key recommendations identified from the Gender Impact Assessment for the model EWN-SCI Projects were to the need to identify clear gender objectives and targets prior to project implementation to ensure their incorporation in the project. Budgetary allocations to appoint a gender focal point who would coordinate these activities are also recommended. Job creation is one the main areas for distribution of project benefits for the EWN-SCI Project. Since the current skillsets for technical jobs at the BWA bias allotment to men, and at the UWI Chemistry Department there is bias in favor of women, targeted training and recruitment should be aimed at the under-represented sex for each position. Additionally the inclusion of socio-economic information as a criterion for prioritization of locations for intervention was recommended.
Scholar Commons Citation
Isaacs, Wainella, "Opportunities to Mainstream Gender in Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Projects: A Case Study in Barbados" (2017). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.