Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Management Committees are essential to ensure the sustainability of community water systems. Voss Foundation has observed over the years, throughout the implementation of our various projects, how important it is that the community feels responsible for and has developed the capacity to manage the maintenance and operation of its own water access points. Voss Foundation and our implementing partners therefore require that the establishment and training of water management committees be an integral part of every proposal for a water project, in every community we work with.
For example, our Swaziland project agreement stipulates: “The project also builds capacity through the establishment and training of water committees, so that project inputs will be maintained and outcomes sustained past the life of the project. The villagers of Ndinda and Ngoyiya communities will be trained in proper usage, management and maintenance, to engender lasting effects on the health and development of individuals and the communities.”
The water committees established through our project with Water.org in Ethiopia participated in a comprehensive, two-part training, which included extensive hand pump maintenance, hygiene and sanitation education, recording of financial flows, planning of weekly and monthly meetings about progress, and managing community use of the water system, including arbitration of any disputes and prevention against damage.
The main function of a water committee is to manage the community water system: by overseeing day-to-day operations and setting policies, such as whether and how much to charge for usage to cover future maintenance costs. Water management committees also promote health and sanitation education in the community by passing on the knowledge members gained during trainings, as part of project implementation.
The role of a water committee extends beyond mere management and logistics. It also serves to elevate the position of women within the community, as we require the composition of the committee be at least 50 % female. Establishing leadership roles for women within project requirements helps to facilitate a shift in attitudes on gender and traditional roles, allowing for greater social mobility. When women serve on water committees, it gives them more power and influence, which creates a ripple effect
of change in a community.