During the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990), it was demonstrated that involvement of women in a number of water supply and sanitation projects led to better performance of projects, less wastage of water and a cleaner environment around the water source. However, the pivotal role that women play as providers and users of water and guardians of the living environment has seldom been reflected adequately in the process of planning, development and management of water resources and related decision-making.
In the initial groundwork for the Decade, laid down at the United Nations Water Conference, held at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in March 1977, it was stated that special emphasis should be given to the situation and to the role of women in the area of public participation. The United Nations Training Package on Women, Water Supply and Sanitation was prepared and tested in Africa at a workshop in September 1991 and in the ESCAP region in September 1992 at a regional workshop held in Bangkok. In both workshops, the participants were drawn from water resources agencies, health/social agencies and women's organizations.
As a result of the regional workshop held in Bangkok, a series of training seminars was devised at the national level to train a greater number of national focal-point trainers who were involved in water supply and sanitation projects. Although it had been widely recognized that water projects were more successful in terms of performance and sustainability with the involvement of women, further development of strategies to involve women systematically and effectively in the water supply and sanitation sector was necessary. National workshops demonstrating the use of already tested United Nations training modules to a core group of potential national trainers were therefore expected to assist countries in developing such strategies to improve the performance and sustainability of their water supply and sanitation projects.
In the above context, a project proposal was formulated, and financial assistance from the Government of Japan was secured, for the implementation of phase I in 1996-1997. The Report summarizes phase I of the project in four parts: (1) preparation for the implementation of phase I; (2) organization of the national workshops; (3) important outcomes of the national workshops; and (4) conclusions and recommendations.