Gendered experiences of household water insecurity: practicing menstrual hygiene in the Low Income Areas of Lilongwe, Malawi

Authors: Cecilia Alda Vidal*, University of Manchester, Alison Browne, University of Manchester
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Gender, Urban Geography
Keywords: Household water insecurity, everyday practices, menstrual hygiene, Low Income Areas, urban water and sanitation.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Balcony A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation explores the gender dimensions of practicing hygiene in a water scarce context. The work fits within broader contributions that have conceptualised household water insecurity in holistic terms and shown how it is experienced differently by different household members. In Lilongwe’s Low Income Areas, 76% of the 1 million city’s population access water through the combination of kiosks, wells, individual connections of neighbours living in nearby higher-income areas, boreholes and rainwater. Previous research has shown that despite the high poverty levels and the constant water shortages, a number of water-intensive hygiene practices are consistently carried out, proving that hygiene is central to residents’ everyday lives. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork including participant observation, semistructured and walking interviews, photography and group discussions, I present an in-depth examination of women´s hygiene practices and experiences focusing on menstrual hygiene. Findings underscore the gendered dimensions of hygiene needs, practices, and responsibilities and reflect on the need to consider these in future household water security interventions.

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