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The study seeks for the overview on the existing situation on women’s participation in decision making in their respective households, their involvement in the communities, women’s burden in carrying water and managing waste and behavior change in water and sanitation.

 
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From 21 May to 8 June: the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water Improvement Project (SHWIP), supported under the Vietnam-Australia Non-Governmental Organization Cooperation Agreement (VANGOCA) and undertaken by Plan in Vietnam, launched a baseline study on gender equality and behavior change in eight communes in Quang Ngai Province. This serves as the baseline to measure the project achievements when the project closes in next four years and a half.
SHWIP was agreed by Quang Ngai Province in July 2005 to operate in 16 communes in the province for five years with total funding of 1,170,000 USD by AusAID aiming to the improvement of health and the enhancement of gender equality.
A three-week baseline survey is conducted by the Project team in consultation with Plan in Australia consultant on gender and behavior change and cooperation from 23 Women Union members in eight communes ranked poor in three districts of Tu Nghia, Nghia Hanh and Son Tinh on more than 1,130 households, accounting ten percents of total households in the communes.
The study seeks for the overview on the existing situation on women’s participation in decision making in their respective households, their involvement in the communities, women’s burden in carrying water and managing waste and behavior change in water and sanitation.
For important matters in the households, about 60% of women join in discussion and make decisions jointly. It is clear that roles of women have been improved and their voices have become stronger recently but there still exists the traditional perception, unfortunately self-esteem by women themselves, that men have better understanding than women and decisions made by women are often incorrect.
Most female respondents, 816 out of 1130 households, accounting for 72%, said women in general are active in community decision making while 50% of the respondents attend between one to five meetings a year. Many of women see no barriers to joining in community decision making but in fact, up to 78% of interviewees join in Women Union while they are significantly absent from community leadership organizations as Commune People’s Committee, being 0.5% only.
It is noticeable that 91% women have overwhelming responsibility to collect water for the household, excluding 8% girls under 18 sharing the burden. The situation is worse in Hanh Thien, Nghia Tho, Tinh Tho where the water sources are scarce or contaminated with carbon dioxide and women have to travel a long distance to access clean water for drinking. Nearly 39% of the respondents spend up to 90 minutes a day for carrying water and 32% spend another similar time for managing household waste. So, their half a day is just for water and sanitation activities.
Despite high level of commitment to providing water, 78% of the surveyed households, only 39% have latrines. This figure is particularly low in some communes as Nghia Tho where no household interviewed has any latrine or only 11.5% in Tinh Tho. Of all eight communes surveyed, 18% of the households have no latrine, bathroom, well or water tank. Two of major reasons found are (i) financial conditions which prevent these farmers from realizing the improvement of water and sanitation facilities, and (2) awareness which leads them to give higher priority to other matters.
In the sharing workshop conducted just right after the study, enumerators from local women unions suggested and prioritized actions to the project for consideration. It is believed that with realistic assistance from the project, water and sanitation conditions will be improved leading to better health for people in remote areas; women’s burden then will be lessened and they will have more time to contribute to local development and benefit from the results.
It is reported that two other baseline studies on healthcare and institutional involvement will be carried out shortly during June.
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