Breaking Gender Barriers in Peri-Urban Maputo

Cacilda Justino is 34, married, has 3 children, is self-employed, and makes her living selling clothing. Ms. Cacilda is like any other woman living in the neighborhood of Mafalala.  She participates in meetings on the improvement of access to water and sanitation services in her community, and she works in the sanitation blocks,  cleaning them.  Despite this, she like many other women in the community are underrepresented and hold no influence at the level of formal decision making. This is largely due to the fact that while women make up a large part of these committees, they do not hold leadership positions in water and sanitation management in the peri-urban areas of Maputo.

WSUP has been operating in the peri-urban areas of Maputo since 2007 to improve water and  sanitation services along with addressing the challenge of under representation among women in collaboration with CARE.  In response to this challenge, WSUP introduced an Intervention Model to increase the participation of women in decision making and leadership positions including a series of workshops organized by WSUP/CARE in June-September 2012.  In gathering the Maputo city municipal councilors, the Water National Directorates, District representatives, neighborhood councils, Commissions and Committees for Water and Sanitation, fountain operators, and participants identified several key factors that have limited women’s participation in WASH decision-making bodies.

These constraints include:

  • Women’s low education levels & related low literacy & numeracy skills needed in WASH committees’ leadership positions.
  • Low capacities in a range of skills needed in the WASH sector (technical skills, etc).
  • Low self confidence and self-esteem levels (fear to speak and difficulties in expressing their own opinions).
  • Lack of opportunities to help women develop their skills outside of the household and domestic sphere.
  • Lack of time due to women’s overloaded daily schedules and multiple responsibilities.
  • Limited freedom to engage and participate in public roles outside of the household and family spheres.  Traditional gender roles continue to persist despite the urban setting.  While they have evolved, most urban men continue to resist women and their wives and daughters from participating in groups and initiatives outside of their home environment.  Forcing this change may alter household gender dynamics and cause tension and possible conflict violence.


To break this cycle, WSUP has created an intervention model that has;

  • Established a minimum quota of 50% women in management and fountain operator committees.
  • Focus group discussions with women alone, men alone, and mixed groups to identify the specific needs and priorities of men and women in regards to sanitation. 
  •  Conduct a workshop at the “bairro” level with the leaders, the secretary, heads of blocks and OMM (Mozambican Women Organization) in order to understand  their priorities; Ensure community representatives, including women, participate in this workshop to share their priorities and views; facilitate a discussion at the workshop to ensure the leaders and communities, including women’s views are considered.
  • By working with bairros leaders to raise awareness of the importance of women’s participation in leadership positions in the water and sanitation sectors and conducting mini gender training, the foundation has been established for future discussions on women’s roles.
  • WSUP is also working to raise community awareness of these issues to provide women with more support as well as by creating more opportunities for women so that they may receive equal employment opportunities.  
  • The re-activation of the water and sanitation committee within the local advisory board, Conselho Consultive,  requires a quota of 50% of participants to be women.  Through community consultations, women can be identified for these roles.  
  • By training management committee members on operation, maintenance of sanitary blocks and fountains, and business management.  Training also includes instruction on how to use sanitary blocks to ensure safety, security, and privacy for women as well as hot to manage waste from sanitary pads.  
  • Leaders also need to regularly recognize publicly the work done by women and share with the wider community how this helps improve the quality and sustainability of WASH services.
  • WSUP has also been working to raise community awareness on women’s participation through public debates, workshops, meetings, home visits, sharing experiences among different intervention “bairros” in urban WASH management.

In supporting and using women’s associations in communities to identify and support women in WASH leadership positions; WSUP has made progress in the peri-urban areas of Maputo.

Through the application of this emerging WSUP model, there has been an increase in the participation of women in leadership positions in water and sanitation management.  With training in the management of sanitary blocks, as well as the training in the business of selling water from fountains, the number of female representation has increased from 22% to 34%.

Cacilda Justino

Today, Cacilda Justino was elected chairperson of the sanitary blocks by the project recipients . With the building of a new sanitary block with WSUP’s support, hygenic conditions have improved greatly, whereas previously the community latrine was not only in poor hygienic conditions, but there was no safety or privacy due to the fact that the cleanliness of the latrine was based on shifts by benefiting families.  The implementations have resulted in a significant improvement in the community.  Cacilda is proud of the improvements and her role in the community, ‘now toilets are easy to manage.  I am happy because I now have privacy and safety while having a comfortable structure, such as a closing doors that we did not have before.” Her experience as a leader in WASH had given her confidence and other communities have noticed her leadership skills and in March 2012, she was appointed responsible for the block, which services 10 homes.  She was appointed to a senior position as a subordinate body to the head of blocks.  This sanitary block is in the best condition, and has served as a model to other blocks.  Cacilda is taken as a a reference of success in empowering women in community management.

Cacilda 2

”Bairros” secretary, Mr. José Daniel and the head of the block, Mr. André Cossa, symbolically thanking Cacilda with a capulana for her performance.

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