Clean, safe and accessible water for everyone in the community plays a critical role in addressing poverty and contributing to economic and human development. Through our Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), Australia is supporting organisations like EWB Australia to deliver community-based projects that have a direct and tangible impact on reducing poverty in developing countries.
By Daniel Miller-Moran, Field Professional at Engineers Without Borders Australia
In my work with Engineers without Borders (EWB) Australia, I am part of a project with a special focus on the inclusion of women in community water management in Timor-Leste.
As the EWB Australia Field Professional, I work closely with Plan International’s Sustainable Water in Municipality (SWiM) project team to develop their technical water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) skills, including training in the use of water surveying app ‘mWater’ to conduct baseline surveys of 27 villages’ water systems in Aileu.
However, only delivering water supply systems does not translate to sustainable water delivery. To this end, the SWiM project team has spent considerable effort restructuring, training and supporting local Water Management Groups to be able to oversee small repairs, ensure water safety, and collect tariffs to guarantee the whole community has access to clean water for years to come.
In particular the SWiM team wanted to engage local women in the Water Management Groups, and worked with a women’s empowerment group known as FADA to deliver leadership training to female community members. Through the training, these women gained the skills and knowledge required to undertake key management roles before elections were held to appoint new members to the local Water Management Groups.
Following elections the percentage of women holding these positions in the local Water Management Groups increased from 32% to 50%. The elected female members can now draft their own rules to protect and conserve their water supply.
Supporting increased agency for women to manage their own water supplies has been shown to improve sustainable water supply, leading to important outcomes of communities such as a reduction in the prevalence of child malnutrition.
Reaching Sustainable Development Goal 6 requires a strong national WASH sector, but it is not all about technical solutions. Being inclusive of committed local stakeholders such as women, builds a foundation of skills that can sustain lasting positive change.
Daniel is a mechanical engineer by trade and is experienced in manufacturing both in Australia and abroad. Daniel has always had a passion for humanitarian engineering and driving social change, and has been an active member of Engineers Without Borders Australia since graduating university. Daniel became a Field Professional in Timor-Leste in August 2017; in conjunction with local NGOs, his focus is on building capacity of local communities in the WASH sector.
EWB Australia Field Professionals work with Plan International staff in Timor-Leste to strengthen the team’s WASH technical skills and knowledge.
The Local Water Management committees in Alieu are now 50% female, following leadership and management training specifically for women.