Women and Water: a panel discussion and community dialogue

Sonke Water & Women Invite

International Women’s Day, which is commemorated on Thursday 8 March, is a call to action for the acceleration of gender equality. Sonke Gender Justice is calling on the City of Cape Town and other stakeholders to work with women and men to mitigate the negative impact that lack of access to water has on women and the longer term negative effects on gender equality.

To assist collective planning in this, Sonke Gender Justice is holding a panel discussion and community dialogue to explore the relationship between gender and water in the context of Cape Town.

The event will include around 100 community members, primarily women, from diverse backgrounds and water crisis and gender experts to foster discussion around the impact of the lack of access to water on women.

WHEN: Thursday, 08 March, 2018

WHERE: Salt River Community House, 41 Salt River Road, Salt River, Cape Town

TIME: Panel discussion: 10h00 – 12h00; Community dialogue: 13h00 – 16h00


  • Emma Powell, Senior Professional Officer in Office of the Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements; Water and Sanitation; and Energy City of Cape Town: Government Administration
  • Johanna Brühl, Behavioural Economist and Researcher with the Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics
  • Leilah Najjaar, Deputy Director: Professional Support Services, Western Cape Government, Department of Health
  • Musa Gwebani, Head of Programmes, Social Justice Coalition
  • Nabeelah Mia, Policy Development and Advocacy Fellow, Sonke Gender Justice

Lack of access to water places a heavy burden of care on women and girls and affects several aspects of their lives. For example:

  • Where girls walk long distances to fetch water, they may arrive late and tired to school, or not be able to attend at all.
  • In instances where women do not have access to proper sanitation such as latrines, they have to walk to communal toilets or public spaces. Night-time trips often put them at increased risk of physical attack and sexual violence.
  • Women have particular hygiene needs in relation to menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, and lack of water provides particular discomfort and distress. The absence of clean water and sanitation also increases the risk of infections and diarrhoeal diseases for everyone.[1] Carrying water is heavy manual labour. In a study of six communities in South Africa, women and children carrying water weighing an average of 19.5 kilos over an average distance of 335 metres were studied. Sixty-nine per cent reported spinal pain, with the potential to lead to muscular-skeletal disorders.[2]
  • Within the context of the Western Cape drought, particular concerns over job security and food security are an issue and have a gendered component. For example, where water allocations and entitlements to farms are cut, this will have an impact on the number of people who will be able to work on these farms, resulting in workers which include women, losing their jobs.[3]