Poverty and social exclusion are closely linked. The poorest people are often 'left behind' and are rarely consulted or involved in decisions about water, sanitation and hygiene policy and programmes. 

A lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene services 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:
  • 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.

That's why we work with our partners to reduce inequalities and overcome discrimination in order to help spark chain reactions that deliver lasting change in people's lives.

Watch our film, produced with UNICEF, about the challenges people with disabilities face to WASH access around the world.

Accessible WASH technologies

A practical guide to technologies and ideas that can support disabled persons with access to water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Landmark posts made from local materials to guide people with visual and/or physical impairments.
Image: WaterAid/Stephen Segawa

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.



Explore our equality and non-discrimination publications and resources

News and blogs

Opinion pieces and discussions relating to equality and non-discrimination