Water quantity and quality are important for health. We used a gender lens analytical framework together with social justice theory to analyse the interplay of water, gender and health in human settlements. Our exploration provides critical research and policy insights for enhancing the liveability of human settlements.

For the attention of: Urban planners and city managers and urban leaders. Scholars researching issues of water, gender and health.

The problem: Water scarcity challenges are rife in Zimbabwe’s major cities. This led to recurrent cholera outbreaks plaguing most cities in Zimbabwe in 2008/09 and 2018, with the outbreaks prevalent in poor neighbourhoods. The water crisis reveals how urban health challenges are prevalent in poor neighbourhoods. The vulnerability of women and girls brings attention to the gendered nature of household water scarcity and vulnerabilities. The study explores women’s lived experiences in accessing water and the associated health issues linked to women’s burden.

What we did and why: We used a mixed-method approach guided by case study design. Data were collected using both primary and secondary methods. First, we undertook a document review, which helped to analyse policies and legislation relating to water, gender and health and we analysed secondary data. Second, we conducted focus group discussions, observations, photography and interviews with key informants. Focus group discussions were conducted with women to gain insights into the daily lived experiences regarding water access and the dimensions of health issues that affect women and girls. Interviews were conducted to examine how the officials perceive the issues of water, gender and health. All these primary data were then analysed.

What our study adds: In our exploration of the water, gender and health;

  • We found that there is pervasive water quality and quantity scarcity in human settlements in Zimbabwe.
  • We observed the persistence of inequalities prevalent in water service delivery in cities.
  • We brought methodological insights critical for other scholars researching on issues pertaining to the water-gender-health nexus.

Implications for city policy and practice: Our findings reveal that water quantity and quality scarcity are prevalent in Hopley. This scarcity disadvantages women and girls who are responsible for household water tasks. Subsequently, in addition to water-borne disease, women and girls are more vulnerable to emotional, physical, and psychological stress associated with accessing water.

  • There is a need for gendered policies that integrate the needs of vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.
  • Participatory methods need to be integrated into policy formulation and implementation.

Full research article: Exploring water-gender-health nexus in human settlements in Hopley, Harare by Abraham R Matamanda, Thulisile N Mphambukeli and Innocent Chirisa.