7.5 Module E: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

A detailed case study of a WASH project with gender mainstreaming practices and results can be found in Case Study F from Cambodia.

7.5.1 Introduction

WASH programming encompasses both supply and demand dimensions. The needs are immense. WHO-UNICEF estimate that one billion people around the world are currently without access to improved water supply and 2.6 billion have no form of improved sanitation services, primarily in Asia and Africa.[21]

Rural and informal peri-urban settlements have particularly low coverage. Water shortages result from inadequate rainfall, over-extraction, and pollution. Many millions of people are killed from w
aterborne diseases each year. Millions more suffer from diarrhea, malaria, hepatitis, and other diseases due to lack of unsafe water and sanitation facilities.

Climate change is expected to have both direct and indirect impacts on the WASH sector. Besides impacts on water resources and the natural environment, climate change also affects infrastructure, demand, and access.[22]
Water supplies, reliability, and temperature are directly affected by a changing climate;indirect effects include land-use changes, agricultural intensification, water quality, groundwater decline, and increased waterborne pathogens. Climate change will have expensive impacts from major construction projects of flood prevention, water storage, and also new WASH systems in urban and inland areas settled by new migrants. Water demand will increase for potable water, multiple use systems, and irrigation systems. If incomes decline, people may be unable or unwilling to pay water prices. Conflicts across users will increase. Access to WASH services will become more problematic in flood-affected areas, and competition will increase between different uses and users. Potable water users will need to rely more on unregulated private water vendors. While the climate impacts on WASH are clear;to date, there are not yet many WASH (or health) projects being submitted to the major CCA funders.

7.5.2 Gender issues for WASH

Gender division of labor
. Women and girls more often collect water for families and animals, purification, food, family hygiene and sanitation practices, and home-based businesses in their households.

  • When women and girls have to travel long distances to collect water or defecate openly, they are more vulnerable to assault and harassment and urinary tract infections. Women and girls have less time for economic activities due to their unpaid duties related to water collection.
  • Clean and private sanitation facilities play a significant role in enabling girls to stay in school;clean water supports better family health, including improved maternal and infant mortality.
  • Tasks related to sanitation are also assigned by sex (e.g., families expecting women to have greater responsibilities for toilet care, although women are not always involved in household choices about these facilities).

Men have had greater commercial and community roles in water and sanitation services supply.
Men are more often engaged, as employees and entrepreneurs, in private water and sanitation services, municipal services, and ancillary technology and equipment sales. Men have also had more involvement in operations and maintenance (O&M) of water systems technology. However, with skills capacity building, women have risen to the challenge of new occupations and enterprises. (See Box 18).

Box 18. Women gaining new paid work opportunities in operations and maintenance

With active support from the women’s NGO Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and another NGO, Gujarati women in India were trained to maintain and repair village hand pumps. These women overcame the gender-based prejudices of both the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewage Board (GWSSB) and their fellow villagers. They proved that the required education standards for the GWSSB training were not needed to fix the pumps. The trained women began maintaining more than 1,500 hand pumps with a repair time of two days rather than the six weeks to six months required under prior arrangements led by the GWSSB.

Verhagen, J., and SEWA. 2002. SEWA’s barefoot water technicians in Sarbarkantha (India): In: SEWA. Women’s struggle for water. Series of field notes on SEWA’s Water Campaign in Gujarat, India. SEWA, India.

Women have had a greater role in family hygiene oversight and education
. As with other health services, women more often have greater involvement and programs are directed to them. Hand-washing education and communication campaigns are more often targeted to women and their children.

Women do not always have the same level of information as men regarding the timing of drought forecasts, water shortages, and supply disruptions.
Access to information varies by sex.

Women are less involved WASH decision-making and planning at community and higher levels.

There has been more progress in recent years at achieving greater gender balance at the community level, but women’s percentage still declines as the scale of management activities increases. WASH issues are often priority ones for women and provide a way to involve women in larger multiple-use water management decisions in their communities (see Box 19).

  • For sanitation, women have not always been involved in community decision-making about service level, type of system, design, and construction, and the distribution of all opportunities brought by sanitation.
  • For both water and sanitation, women have also not been as involved as men in decisions about what is affordable and in willingness to pay, even though women may be responsible for paying for family water or sanitation services.

    Box 19. Women’s water monitoring sparks interest in watershed management

    A Mindinao watershed management project in the Philippines focused on the causes and rates of siltation for an upland lake used to generate electricity. The project first invited young men to help monitor the water to determine the siltation impacts of new soil conservation techniques for local farmers. They were not particularly interested nor were the women farmers who were asked to help monitor. The women were more interested in health than soil loss, so the project expanded monitoring to include fecal coliform levels in order to increase women’s involvement. This change spurred greater involvement of the women in a wider range of environmental activities and increases in adoption, by men and women, of soil conservation practices.

    UNDP. 2003. Mainstreaming Gender in Water Management. A Practical journey to sustainability: A Resource guide. UNDP, New York. http://www.wsscc.org/resources/resource-publications/mainstreaming-gender-water-management-practical-journey

7.5.3 Gender-WASH issues in the context of climate change

Climate change disproportionately increases women’s time burdens
. These include:

  • After a flooding event, women have to spend additional time collecting water, cleaning their home, and ensuring family well-being.
  • Coastal flooding may lead to increased salinization of household and business water sources, which is a particular problem in the Asia-Pacific region. As a result, water security and conflict will become a bigger issues and multiple agencies will become involved.
  • With droughts, women need to spend more time and calories on water collection and suffer physical strains from heavy loads.
  • As waterborne or sanitation-related illnesses increase, so do demands for women’s time for family caregiving.

Climate change increases conflicts over competing water uses.
Communities are increasingly faced with allocating scarce water across multiple uses and users, including potable water for humans and animals, irrigation, water for hydropower and other energy, and business usage. With less involvement in community water decision-making and planning, women’s priorities may get less attention.

7.5.4 Gender entry points for CCA WASH projects

Conducting gender-sensitive vulnerability assessments for the WASH sector.
Focusing on supply and demand for water and sanitation and hygiene practices, gender-sensitive vulnerability assessments should elaborate, using men and women informants of different economic classes, current gendered patterns of collection and usage, commercial activities, and decision-making service and past coping strategies during flooding and droughts. For siting decisions of both water supply and solid waste facilities, it will be important to know women’s and men’s land-use patterns and use rights.

Planning and design of gender-sensitive adaptation strategies
. To increase household climate resilience and advance gender equality, priorities for WASH projects include:

  • Expand women’s participation in WASH decision-making bodies, particularly at the local level, to advance their input into choices about competing water uses, technologies, and siting (see Box 20).
  • Increase men’s roles in family sanitation education and community promotions.
  • Expand women’s access to nontraditional employment and enterprise, particularly in the service provision opportunities for WASH.

When planning, various methodologies can be employed:

  • Gender analyses
    can offer information on project design choices related to technology, siting, and logistics;delivery mechanisms for weather-related information;labor availability;and how to build capacity to expand women’s demand-side opportunities in O&M and supply-side opportunities for water and sanitation enterprises and employment. These types of analysis can also pinpoint how to improve women’s roles in WASH decision-making bodies.
  • Gender-sensitive institutional analyses
    for executing agencies, as well gender-budgeting exercises at local and higher levels, can improve the design by assessing staffing, gender mainstreaming capacity, and financial commitments to helping women clientele.
  • Hygiene education and communication programs
    , unlike those for natural resources and agriculture, are primarily geared to women in their roles as mothers. Gender analyses during project design can highlight how men can be attracted to, and integrated into, hygiene promotion efforts. Additional information about men’s hygiene practices and attitudes, as well as service provision strategies, should be gathered.

    Box 20. Understanding gender issues before locating improved water facilities

    Failure to consult with women during water project design can have unintentional negative impacts. In Nepal’s Terai region, improved water services, tap-stands, and tube wells were located along roadsides. However, for local women, these locations provided no privacy for bathing freely or washing clothes used during menstruation. Because of cultural modesty norms, women had to either wait until dark to do their washing and bathing or they carried water from the roadside taps and wells to their home several times per day. Women spend four to five times more time on water collection after “improved” facilities were

    Regmi, C., and B. Fawcett. 2001. Men’s roles, gender relations, and sustainability in water supplies: Some lessons from Nepal. In: Sweetman, C. (ed.). 2001. Men’s involvement in gender and development policy and practice: Beyond rhetoric. Oxfam Working Papers. Oxfam, Oxford, UK. http://www.irc.nl/docsearch/title/121479

Implementing gender-sensitive WASH interventions for CCA.
Changing attitudes about women’s abilities to take on nontraditional work and be involved in WASH decision-making outside of their households and men’s legitimacy as sanitation educators will require both campaigns and capacity-building activities. There may be policy dimensions as well that can help to reduce any gender-specific business barriers to women’s services enterprises for water and sanitation. Women’s businesses, either home-based or outside the home, often receive too little attention in WASH discussions. These women can be approached as a separate stakeholder group.

7.5.5 Monitoring gender impacts

TABLE 10. Illustrative gender indicators for WASH CCA projects
Intervention Area Illustrative Indicators
Consultation inclusiveness Number and percentage of men and women, by social group, consulted about project plans and consultation frequency
Improving gender balance of staff, partners, or clients/client groups Percentage of men and women for target group
Active participation Number and percentage of men and women actively participating in consultations, workshops, water management/village development committee meetings, supervisory, construction, O&M, data collection, and monitoring
Leadership Number and percentage of women serving in leadership positions in harvesters/fishing, enterprise, marketing, and planning groups
Adoption of practices Number and percentage adopting targeted hygiene practices, by sex (adults, children)
Increased livelihood diversification Livelihood changes for households headed by women and those headed by couples or men
Women’s status changes by household or community Proxy measures related to relative roles, by sex, in household expenditure decisions or incorporation of women’s priorities into group or community plans
Economic status Changes in income earned over time, by sex

Changes in nature-based employment over time, by sex

Service provided Percentage of men and women clients
Inclusive service provided Percentage of women from female-headed households, socially marginalized, landless groups served by extension
Client satisfaction Satisfaction level changes with services (e.g., credit providers)

Reported extension visits/meeting in past year, by sex

Policy change Inclusion, protection, and/or improvement of women’s rights in new or reformed agreements, regulations or laws
Staffing within water sector and delivery agencies Number and percentage of men and women in management, technical expert and field delivery positions

Box 21 lists additional literature sources on gender and WASH.

Box 21. Further readings on gender and WASH