Impact of gender mainstreaming in infrastructure projects – Evidence from a water project in Madagascar

Madagascar is a low-income country with significant natural resources but a long story of frequent economic crises. From 2013 and before the COVID-19 crisis, its economic growth averaged 3.5 percent per year. However, the recession was three times deeper than in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, worsening the already high poverty rate to a new record high of 81%. Access to water is perhaps the most severe infrastructure challenge in this economy. As of 2018, 84% of the households did not have access to drinking water on premises, and 57% of the Malagasy population did not have access to an improved water source[1], with a significant regional variation between urban and rural areas[2]. Regarding water quality, on average, 80% of the population drinks water contaminated with E. Coli, i.e., fecal matter.

As one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the access to clean water and sanitation is a desirable outcome in itself and an important contributor to the development of a country. Secure access to safe drinking water has direct implications for health outcomes of children and adults. However, it can also lead to a great range of indirect benefits. For instance, educational attainment or productivity gains, and may also contribute to achieving another SDG: gender equality. Particularly in developing country contexts, including Madagascar, women are the primary water collectors.

The water system in the Antananarivo region (capital city of Madagascar) is currently facing challenges of increasing demand for water across the city and low water quality. Therefore, the JIRAMA Water III project – financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union (EU), the Malagasy government, and the Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) not-for-profit organisation – aims to improve the availability, quality, coverage and institutional framework of the current water system in urban Madagascar.

This €74 million-water-infrastructure project will improve the drinking water supply system via investments in water production and water distribution. The JIRAMA Water III project covers both urban and peripherical areas of the capital city with an intervention on the water system that consists of five main components:

  1. Implementation and renovation of water treatment plants.
  2. Implementation and renovation of water pipes.
  3. Implementation of water tanks.
  4. Implementation of water booster pumps.
  5. Implementation of 400 water fountains and 500 domestic water connections.

The implementing agency is the national water and energy utility, Jiro sy Rano Malagasy (JIRAMA). The project is expected to start this year and to be completed by 2026. It will serve approximately 1.25 million inhabitants in the capital city and its outskirts. By lessening the drudgery of gathering water and the time lost on this onerous duty, which is typically the responsibility of women and children[3], it is expected that the project will have a positive effect on gender equality. Even more, considering that women and girls are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.

Micheline Goedhuys leads a research consortium of highly qualified experts from the United Nations University (UNU-MERIT), University of Namur, Leibniz University Hannover, and the Belgian consulting agency Aide à la Décision Economique (ADE) with extensive impact evaluation experience and thematic and geographic expertise.

The project has two main objectives:

  • To develop an impact evaluation design to assess the direct and indirect effects of the JIRAMA Water III project. Moreover, the project will design and conduct a survey to gather baseline data to know the starting situation of the beneficiaries.
  • To suggest some indicators that can best serve as a proxy – or a ‘gender tag’ – for identifying (at the appraisal stage) projects supported by the EIB that are likely to foster gender equality. Hence, it is expected that these indicators could contribute to the EIB Group’s Strategy on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which seeks to enhance the impact of its operations on gender equality.

In the future, once the projects are finished and start operations, an endline survey will be collected to do an impact evaluation aimed at measuring how this infrastructure project has affected the lives[4] of the inhabitants who benefit from such infrastructure improvements.


UNICEF, INSTAT, USAID & World Bank. (2019), Madagascar Enquête par grappes à indicateurs multiples, 2018, Technical report, UNICEF.

World Bank. (2022), ‘Overview’.

[1] Water source protected from outside contamination, mainly fecal matter.

[2] 27.5% and 65.9% respectively.

[3] 70.3% in urban areas, and 77.8% in Antananarivo (UNICEF, 2018).

[4] In several ways, such as health, employment, and time allocation.