Water is a human right and its accessibility is of enormous importance for the livelihood of people on earth. What role does the gender component play in relation to water access, use, knowledge, governance and experiences? 

The scientists Harrisa, Kleiberb, Goldinc, Darkwahd and Morinville (2016) pursue these and other questions about the interfaces between gender and water in their study of the underserved areas of Accra, Ghana and Cape Town, South Africa. In their analysis they take the feminist perspective of political ecology and refer to mixed-methods research and triangulation. The following is a presentation of the research and an analysis of the methods and the interdisciplinarity that influenced this work.

For their 2012 analysis, the researchers conducted 487 household surveys in four relatively impoverished settlements. By developing an understanding of the connections between gender and water in different contexts, the research aimed to emphasize the need to deal with divergences and convergences in knowledge generation and production. With a gender-differentiated focus, issues such as access and use of water, knowledge about water and water-related institutions, government participation, lived experiences and emotional dimensions of water use, access and governance were examined.

 The goal of triangulation is to test the robustness of causal conclusions. Something that Harrisa et al. prove by uncovering patterns through quantitative work, which can then be explained and better understood through qualitative work. Thus, the researchers argue that in their accumulation of different sets of data related to water accessibility, they engage in qualitative and quantitative work not only in tandem, but also in conversation (Harissa et al., 2016 p.14). This leads to insights such as the importance of context to understand the gendered dimensions of access to and experience of water. There have been instances where observable patterns for South Africa were not observed at Ghanaian sites. While in other cases a gender bias in fetching water (Figure 2) is analyzed, one survey shows a strong difference in perception or representation.  

Based on the present analysis, it is therefore hypothesized that men and women would report significant differences on a number of the subjects examined. It is therefore worth taking a look at the nuances and complexity of the topic of water accessibility and how it is dealt with using different methodical approaches.

Using mixed methods such as unstructured interviews and official documents, the goal of this research was not to find the truth. Instead, the goal was to shed light on the “silences, the tensions, and the convergences and divergences between different realities uncovered by different approaches” (see also Harris, 2009; Hesse-Beaver, 2012). With this intersectional understanding, the operation from complete knowledge is not necessary, but it is much more important to try to learn from the necessary partiality and situatedness of different knowledge (Haraway, 1988).

In this blog post, my aim was to present the research and methodological approaches of the article “Intersections of Gender and Water: Comparative Approachs to Everyday Gendered Negotiations of Water Access in Underserved Areas of Accra, Ghana and Cape Town, South Africa” by Harrisa et al.. This was published in the Journal of Gender Studies in the form of a 23-page article that contains a detailed description of the problem, the methodology used and the results.

Source: Harris, L., D. Kleiber, J. Goldin, A. Darkwah, and C. Morinville. “Intersections of Gender and Water: Comparative Approaches to Everyday Gendered Negotiations of Water Access in Underserved Areas of Accra, Ghana and Cape Town, South Africa.” Journal of Gender Studies 26, no. 5 (2016): 561–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2016.1150819.