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Study finds that Pacific Island communities could manage water better with sex-disaggregated data

Aug 3, 2023

Despite the crucial role it plays in informing water management and governance, the amount of sex-disaggregated water data in Small Island Development States of the Pacific is almost non-existent. A pilot study conducted in Fiji from 10 to 16 July tackled this problem. The study was conducted by experts from UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Programme, in cooperation with technical officers from the Water Authority of Fiji and the Fiji Meteorological Service.

The study consisted of a two-day workshop in Nadi, followed by the collection of field data on Malolo Island in west Fiji. The island covers 20 kms and has a population of just over 3000. As there are no rivers, the population is entirely reliant on rainfall and a limited amount of groundwater for its water supply.

From 12 to 16 July, the group of professionals conducted a household survey in the villages of Solevu and Yaro. The survey collected sex-disaggregated data on water access, gender roles in water management and how villagers perceived and coped with climate variability and change. The team also interviewed village leaders, nurses and members of the village water committees.

The surveyors were particularly interested in rainwater harvesting practices. The survey revealed just how reliant the villagers were on rainwater for drinking purposes, in particular. They also relied on groundwater for bathing, laundry and cleaning, among other uses. In both villages, there was a good distribution of tanks to collect rainwater but they were in need of maintenance and renovation. Often, villagers lacked the requisite skills to undertake minor repairs.

The distribution of gender roles in the villages varied from household to household, with men generally being the official decision-makers. Women were found to perform the bulk of domestic chores. Nevertheless, in households were women held a job outside the home, men tended to be the ones who secured water for the household, took care of children or assisted with other domestic tasks traditionally considered a woman’s responsibility.

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