Global Resources

For her it's the big issue: putting women at the centre of water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

Author: J. Fisher
Publisher: Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
Publication Date: Mar 2006

Lack of basic sanitation and safe water is a major issue for women and girls who live in poor and overcrowded areas. This joint undertaking by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) collects and analyses noteworthy examples that illustrate the impact of women on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) activities, in order to show its potential for transformative change. The evidence presented throughout the report is sourced from recent literature, project reports and evaluations, and some personal correspondence with those involved in ongoing, unreported projects. Themes explored in the paper consist of the advantages of water projects including women in planning, funding, operations, and awareness building, and how women benefit in terms of privacy, health, school attendance, income-generation, and status. Key messages are then presented, before recommendations aimed at moving away from old, top-down practices to a more people-centred, gender-sensitive approach. Recommendations include:

  • Increased advocacy of key WASH messages and support for public awareness campaigns that emphasise gender equality. 
  • New approaches for projects and programmes, with a stronger emphasis on gender. Ways must be found to break the taboo surrounding menstrual and pre- and post-natal hygiene.
  • A focus on ensuring clean water, separate and secure facilities for boys and girls, and good health and hygiene practices in all primary and secondary schools, and the involvement of all the children in promoting good habits.
  • Funds, resources, and access to credit should be made more available to civil society organisations and small-scale providers of water and sanitation services, particularly those that work in a gender-sensitive fashion.
  • Journalists and media organisations should be encouraged to provide more coverage of gender-related issues, and supported in their efforts when they choose to do so.