Women and Small Water Enterprises: A Case Study in Accra, Ghana

Authors: Natalie Mallue*,
Topics: Women, Human-Environment Geography, Africa
Keywords: Small Water Enterprises, Women, Water
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Many global development initiatives focus on improving access to safe and affordable water. Governments and infrastructure in rapidly urbanizing cities struggle to meet the increased demand for water, especially in peri-urban and informal settlements of sub-Saharan Africa. The private sector, in the form of small water enterprises (SWEs), plays an increasing role in satisfying demand for water and at the lowest levels, women often provide this service. This paper explores how women-operated SWEs affect access to household water in a peri-urban settlement of Accra, Ghana and investigates their social, economic, and environmental impacts in the community. The case study involved a group of women who improved their community in Accra, Ghana while making a living through small water enterprises. The methods employed in this study were interviews, observation, and review of existing literature and case studies. Results of this qualitative analysis reveal that while SWEs increase and diversify local access to clean water, provide economic opportunities and jobs—especially to women—they also present environmental and health concerns when unregulated and unaddressed by educators, city officials, and community leaders. Further, in cases where municipal governments cannot provide safe and consistent access to clean water in the given location, results show that women operated SWEs can improve outcomes in multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Moving forward, city officials and development programs should consider supporting women operated SWEs to increase water access and improve other developmental outcomes, while working to avoid potentially negative environmental and health outcomes.

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