We embrace the principles of equality and non-discrimination so people can unlock their potential, and break free from poverty.

WaterAid and equality and non-discrimination

Poverty and social exclusion are closely linked. The poorest people are often the most socially excluded and are rarely consulted or involved in decisions about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policy and programmes. The situation is often compounded by discrimination, stigma and existing inequalities that occur at all levels, including:

  • Spatial inequalities such as those experienced by communities in remote and inaccessible rural areas, and people living in urban and peri-urban slum areas.
  • Group-related inequalities that vary across countries, such as those based on ethnicity, race, nationality, language, religion and caste.
  • Individual inequalities relevant in every country, such as those based on sex/gender, age, disability and health conditions that may restrict access to water and sanitation. Those affected by these inequalities include:
    • An estimated one billion people living with a disability.
    • 740 million people aged 60 and over.
    • An estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV.
    • Women and girls. In addition to their necessity for women and girls’ specific needs – such as for menstrual hygiene management – these basic rights are essential for their social and economic development, and strongly contribute towards gender equality.

Our work, with our partners, to reduce inequalities and overcome discrimination helps spark chain reactions that deliver lasting change in people's lives.

Sanitation and gender - looking beyond the binary

Transgender and intersex access to sanitation is under-addressed in the water, sanitation and hygiene development sector and many transgender and intersex people around the world struggle to access a decent toilet. For Andrés Hueso at WaterAid it's a human rights issue.

School uniforms at Katapazi School in Kazungula District, Zambia. WaterAid/ Chileshe Chanda

Our approach

We investigate the different barriers people and groups face when trying to access WASH. We analyse the findings to develop specific approaches to overcome these barriers. Our approaches include:

Working with others

  • Ensuring that the WASH sector incorporates principles of equality and non-discrimination across all areas of policy and practice.
  • Generating evidence to highlight inequalities in WASH planning and service provision.
  • Linking with others who are promoting the rights of marginalised groups, to strengthen our expertise and promote the integration of inclusive and accessible WASH services in all sectors.

Developing capacity

  • Working with duty-bearers to strengthen their capacity to fulfil their obligations to provide equitable and sustainable WASH services.
  • Empowering socially excluded people to participate in development processes.

Delivering services

  • Conducting participatory safety and accessibility audits on WASH facilities to identify the changes and improvements needed.
  • Promoting simple and accessible WASH service designs, such as safe and secure toilets with ramps and wider entrances for wheelchair users.
  • Mobilising communities so that different groups actively participate in planning and building services, including women and girls and others who are marginalised.
  • Providing information in local languages and in accessible formats.

1. WHO (2011). World report on global disability. Available at http://who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/en/

2. OHCHR (2011). Human rights of older persons: summary of the report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly. Available at www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/Pages/OlderPersonsIndex.aspx

3. UNAIDS (2017). Fact sheet 2014, global statistics. Available at www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/UNAIDS_FactSheet_en.pdf


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Opinion pieces and discussions relating to equality and non-discrimination