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close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
close this folder Overview of findings and recommendations
View the document Household distribution
View the document Occupations and education
View the document Expenditure
View the document Savings and loans
View the document Density
View the document Tenure and mobility
View the document Physical and social infrastructure
View the document The building process

Physical and social infrastructure

Water and sewage

The differences identified between different types of household with respect to water supply were not significant. However, female-headed households proved rather more likely than other types of households to be sharing toilet facilities.

Electricity and fuel

Female-headed households were the least likely households to have metered electricity and were also more likely to use cheaper fuels such as wood and charcoal as their main cooking fuel than male- or joint-headed households. The use of the cheaper fuels increases the tendency for fire outbreaks which can be disastrous in yards where many of the units are wooden. There are stories every week in the local press about housing that has been destroyed because of paraffin lights overturning or cooking fires getting out of control. In many of these cases it is young children who pay the ultimate price.

Social infrastructure

Three out of four of household heads interviewed as a result of the survey indicated that they had no individual or institution within the community to whom they could turn for help in times of trouble. Less than 7 per cent of respondents felt that they had ever had any assistance from government with respect to land, water, or housing and. to a large degree, households perceived their struggles to survive as being their personal business and not that of a community. The lack of community cohesion and the lack of community-based institutions poses a serious challenge to shelter development strategies that rely on significant levels of investment at the community level because a huge amount of work will have to be done in the first place to create the community structures that such an approach requires. However information gathered as a result of the case studies supports other work carried out in the Caribbean (Women in the Caribbean study by University of the West Indies) that suggests that women operate support networks that function informally but extremely effectively as safety-nets for individuals and, sometimes, households, in crisis. If these networks can be incorporated into initiatives aimed at building community cohesion within low-income settlements the success of the initiatives is likely to be enhanced greatly.


1. Adequate water supply is important for all households, but it is particularly important for women who generally tend to be responsible for washing and hygeine in the household. The current policy of installing water supplies on a total-cost-recovery basis can lead to severe deterioration in the water-supply system, a deterioration which has a particularly negative impact on women and children. The costs of providing water through a public standpipe system and of allowing private water connections without owner-occupier status being established may well be higher in the long term than the cost that these connections would entail to the national economy. Indirect costs of lack of water are particularly important with respect to health costs.

Further work should be carried out on women's real access to water and the effects that it has on their and their children's lives. Implications for national water policy should be clearly delineated and steps taken to act on them.

2. Information on safe pit-latrine construction techniques should be made available to women as well as men who live in areas where no mains sewer system exists. This information should preferably approach the whole question of sewage disposal from the perspective of a woman who has responsibility for designing her own system and should be well illustrated with women evident in the illustrations as active participants in the building process.

3. Many low-income settlements lack the social cohesion normally associated with the term community. Shelter interventions often ignore this fact. The most successful interventions have often been those that have incorporated, from the beginning of the project, a community development component.

Unfortunately budgetary cuts within the public sector often entail the cutting of the rare community services divisions of housing development agencies. Community service divisions should, on the contrary, be strengthened so that their capacity for outreach is improved. Community service workers should be trained in appropriate community development methods.

4. Non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations often operate very successfully at the community level because of their ability to relate to low-income people directly. Their activities should be supported and their capacity to act in shelter-related areas should be strengthened. A special emphasis should be placed on support for such organizations that have a clear policy of support for women's activities and concerns.