Johannesburg: Municipal mayors have been challenged to create effective partnerships with women and youth in their planning programmes, especially when it comes to the water and environmental sectors.
The call was made during a mayors’ dialogue on waste management, water conservation and women and youth development, convened by the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi.
The aim of the dialogue was to find ways to protect the environment and conserve water for socio-economic development, and women and youth empowerment.
The dialogue sought to promote co-operation and share learning at all levels of government in order to strengthen the commitment to waste management and water conservation.
The dialogue also sought to ensure an integrated approach with programmes and key stakeholders, and identify innovations to address challenges and gaps at local government level.
Deputy Director-General: Regions within the Department of Water Affairs, Thandeka Mbassa, said women understood better what it means not to have water, hence the need to include them in the community committees that determine the running of projects.
“The benefit of involving women in the development of communities goes a long way. Women can contribute to the wellbeing of their communities without expecting any payment, as long as they are provided with the tools to work,” said Mbassa.
Mabudafhasi echoed Mbassa’s sentiments, saying women had a significant role to play in the preservation of water and the environment, as they were the ones who bore the brunt of the consequences of not having these resources.
She maintained that major sustainable development and economic growth could be possible through improving the economic, social and political status of women.
“We have brought rural women on board to prove that natural resources can be managed using indigenous knowledge – it is not only for engineers and scientists. Through the War on Leaks programme, we continue to create employment and skills development for unemployed youth,” said Mabudafhasi.
She appealed to all mayors to commit to ensuring that waste management, water conservation and demand management (WCWDM), as well as women and youth development programmes, are institutionalised in the business of their municipalities by advocating for inclusion in the strategic and business plans.
Mbassa said it was important to involve the youth in order to channel their energy towards positive activities.
She further highlighted the importance of attaining 100% access to water in the country, warning that failure to do so will have an effect in meeting other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) like health, education and eliminating poverty.
“We are responding to the 12 critical areas of concerns of the Beijing Platform and water is central to meeting other MDGs,” said Mbassa.
She challenged municipalities to implement the programmes that are currently ran by the department. Some of the programmes include War on Leaks, Adopt a River, regional bulk infrastructure, water conservation, the Women in Water Awards as well as learnerships from the Learning Academy.
Mbassa said they were looking forward to working with mayors who were keen to implement any of these programmes.
Committing to water conservation
Ekurhuleni Municipality mayor, Mondli Gungubele, pledged the municipality’s commitment to ensure that water availability is not a constraint.
“It’s our commitment to provide our community with access to clean water and sanitation. Clean, safe water is not something to be taken for granted. It forms the foundation of our future and plays a vital role in agriculture,” said Gungubele, adding that the municipality had achieved the Blue Drop Status for three conservative years.
The South African Local Government Association’s William Moraka said the association proposed that municipalities put aside 1% of the total capital expenditure as a revolving fund towards water conservation and demand management.
Moraka encouraged municipalities to implement regulations and by-laws correctly.
“Once we have by-laws in place, let’s enforce and prosecute people who steal water,” Moraka advised mayors.
During the dialogue, Mabudafhasi and the mayors signed a pledge, which is a symbolic high-level commitment by mayors declaring to be the ambassadors of waste management, water conservation and demand management, as well as women and youth development programmes.
South Africa remains one of the 30 driest countries in the world. The country is working very hard towards attainment of 100% access to water for all.