Empowering pastoralist women in Afar region, Ethiopia: the value of PhotoVoice in Covid-sensitive research

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There’s much that can be said about the intersection of poverty, gender and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and nutrition outcomes of pastoralist women in Afar region, North Ethiopia. Here, women bear the burden of responsibility for nutrition and WASH provision but suffer disproportionately from the effects of poor WASH coverage. Lack of access to nearby reliable water sources means they spend large amounts of time fetching water and lack of adequate sanitation leaves them vulnerable to disease and physical insecurity when they are forced to defecate in the open. However, despite the implications on their health and wellbeing, it can be difficult for women’s voices to be heard when it comes to improving development outcomes for their communities.

One reason for this is the shockingly low literacy rates in the region, particularly for women and girls. Large numbers of women have had no exposure to even primary education and are functionally illiterate. Not only does this keep them out of government positions who would normally be consulted in implementing WASH projects, but it means that their intrinsic knowledge is often ignored and lost in conversations about community WASH. Even with standard participatory information gathering techniques such as focus group discussions, creating an environment where Afar women feel confident to speak up has been a struggle. In their conservative pastoralist communities, women are expected to be less forthwith with their opinions and will often remain silent in mixed groups.

Read the full blogpost on the Sanitaion Learning Hub