Global Resources

Ensuring Rights to Water and Sanitation for Women and Girls - Interactive Expert Panel onChallenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls

Author: Lyla Mehta
Publisher: United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
Publication Date: Mar 2013
Access to water and sanitation for all is central to achieving global justice for poor women and men. So why, after over 40 years of global efforts, do 780 million people still lack access to drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation? This paper explores why clean water, good sanitation and effective hygiene matter, outlines the achievements and challenges in achieving the water and sanitation MDG and its gender implications, and also discusses lessons learned and good practices. It then addresses the measures that need to be taken so that post-Millennium Development Goal (MDG) frameworks are formulated in ways that realise rights to water and sanitation in a more gender-sensitive manner. The paper acknowledges and welcomes ongoing efforts, for example in post-MDG consultation processes and working groups, to ensure that future frameworks take the following issues into account: women's participation in water and sanitation management processes; the challenges of inclusion in the face of gender and cultural biases; legal reform in land and water rights; and the gathering of sex disaggregation data and development of gender sensitive indicators that help women make their case. Finally, it argues that future frameworks must more effectively take into account gender dynamics, sustainability and equity concerns as well as regional variations. It makes specific recommendations in relation to water and sanitation indicators to better monitor progress: - Measurement efforts should not remain overly abstract and ideal typical, but draw on bottom up and practical insights - Avoid only focusing on the process of number counting, indicator definition and monitoring, and make efforts to capture the diversity of women’s choices and their constraints - Attempts to achieve universal access must go well beyond just the low-hanging fruit.