Women's involvement in economic opportunities in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Indonesia: Examining personal experiences and potential for empowerment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Development Studies Research, 2019, 6 (1), pp. 76 - 91
Issue Date:
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© 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The involvement of women in economic activity in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in Indonesia is increasing, and yet this is the first study to examine empowerment in this context. This qualitative study explored the experiences of 18 women business owners, mobilizers, and public sector employees in WASH-related activities. The women were observed to have strong social motivations, and only those responsibile for household income expressed economic motivations. Women’s experiences were analyzed against four dimensions of empowerment: ‘power within,’ ‘power to,’ ‘power over,’ and ‘power with.’ Significant evidence of empowerment was found, and in some cases, economic empowerment. Equally, the complexity of the empowerment process as well as challenges, contradictions, and negotiations were observed. Evidence of self-belief and recognition that women had capabilities equal to men was tempered by adherence to gender norms concerning men’s roles in technical matters and decision-making. While some women experienced support from close family relatives, others were limited by household duties, restricted mobility, and limited financial independence. Based on the results, the WASH programs and policies promoting involvement in economic activities need more nuanced consideration of women’s empowerment, and to develop multi-pronged strategies that can support women in negotiating pathways towards greater gender equality.
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