Global Resources

Gender in Water and Sanitation

Author: R. Rop
Publisher: UNDP - World Bank Water and Sanitation Program
Publication Date: Nov 2010

This working paper draws attention to approaches for redressing gender inequality in the water and sanitation sector and the importance of taking a gendered approach. Throughout, there are clearly signposted examples of good practice which illustrate where and how a principle described in the text has been applied – such as the presence of specific gender objectives in Uganda national policy documents.

The paper begins with a discussion on gender responses to policy and gives the argument that beyond addressing access to domestic water and sanitation services, policies should target economic equality through water for productive uses, equality in decision making, and equality in the contracts, consultancy and general business around water and sanitation infrastructure development. Policy makers should allocate adequate resources to bring in those with gender expertise to provide advice and help guide gender responsive implementation in operations.

Experiences of mainstreaming gender within sector operations are then explored, beginning with the importance of mainstreaming in the workplace and providing steps towards making this happen. The paper goes on to describe how gender can be addressed within service delivery in urban, small towns and rural locations. Challenges in urban areas include population growth, poverty and sanitation, while small town and rural areas can face neglect due to the centralisation of government resources.

Section three addresses gender responses to monitoring and evaluation processes, while the fourth section examines accountability and voice initiatives. It argues that social accountability tools such as Citizen Report Cards and public hearings can help citizens overcome traditional barriers to participating in meetings and being heard. Some cases where this has been successful are briefly outlined.   Section five assesses gender responses within hygiene uptake and behaviour change programmes, given that women still play a central role in upholding hygiene standards in the home. Section six examines the links between water, sanitation and HIV/AIDS. It argues that three aspects require more attention and a better response by practitioners: the targeting of services to support hygienic use of water and sanitation, the prioritisation of services for clinics providing maternal health care and mitigation for the negative impacts of HIV/AIDS on the sectors work force.

Finally, the paper concludes that development of water and sanitation services provides an opportunity to improve not only the living conditions of citizens, but also their sense of empowerment and capacity for self-determination. By promoting equality, the water and sanitation sectors can increase their relevance and impact on society as a whole.