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The Human Right to Water: Gender Implications

Friday last, saw a happy re-union of researchers, human rights officers and community members from Naivasha, Mathare and Marakwet come together to discuss water issues pertaining to their communities facilitated by Strathmore Law School.

The meeting at Strathmore’s Law School was aimed at deliberating on research based on case studies conducted by Prof. Kameri-Mbote, Prof. Migai Akech, Dr. Celestine Musembi and Dr Elizabeth Gachenga on water governance in Naivasha, Mathare and Marakwet. This research is part of a wider project sponsored by the Norwegian Agency for Cooperation and Development (NORAD) on Human rights and Gender Dimensions of Water Governance in Africa: Actors, Norms and Institutions. The research is being undertaken in cooperation between the Southern and Eastern African Regional Centre for Women’s Law (SEARCWL), the Institute of Women’s Law (IWL) at the University of Oslo, the Faculty of Law at Chancellors College in Malawi and Strathmore Law School in Nairobi.

The researchers presented their findings to representatives of the communities where the case studies had been conducted as well as to representatives from human rights organizations and sought to obtain their feedback. Community members shared their concerns in relation to the current legislative framework for water resource. The representatives from Marakwet, noted that the current framework does not adequately address issues such as recognition of customary law governance systems and proposed a more consultative process in the ongoing realignment of water laws with the Constitution to ensure this is remedied. The representatives from Mathare shared the challenges of provision of water services and sanitation in informal settlements and the particular inconvenience caused to women as a result of poor servicing. In the case of Naivasha, the complexities arising from multiple competing uses for water amongst local small scale farmers, commercial farmers and the environmental uses were highlighted. It was noted that due to the nature of the roles of women, the challenges relating to accessibility of water services and sanitation affect them more than they do men.

Participants agreed to plan for a follow-up community feedback session in which the researchers would travel back to the communities to disseminate the findings from the case studies. Recommendations from the report will thus be shared with communities to encourage a more informed participation in the ongoing water law reform.