We support people who are marginalised or live in poverty, and challenge restrictive gender norms, to ensure everyone, everywhere can access essential water, sanitation and hygiene services and fulfil their rights. 

Poverty, gender inequality, social exclusion and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are closely linked.

A lack of access to WASH services is often caused or compounded by discrimination, stigma and inequalities that at all levels, including:

  • Spatial inequalities such as those experienced by communities in remote and hard-to-reach rural areas, tough physical terrains, and people living informal settlements in urban and peri-urban areas.
  • Inequalities experienced by groups of people such as those based on caste, ethnicity, language, indigenous identity, race, and religion.
  • Individual inequalities based on personal characteristics such as sex and gender, age, disability and health conditions that may restrict access to water and sanitation. Those affected by these inequalities include the estimated:

What's more, access to WASH services is essential not only for women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, but also for their social and economic development, and to contribute towards gender equality.

For all these reasons, We support people who are marginalised or live in poverty, and challenge restrictive gender norms, to fulfil their WASH rights. 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. We also work with and alongside governments and WASH service providers to help them respond to everyone's right to water and sanitation, and meet hygiene needs.

Accessible WASH technologies

A practical guide to technologies and ideas that can support people who live with a disability to access WASH 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 face when trying to access WASH. We analyse the power dynamics and structures that might restrict some people's access and use these findings to work with partners – including governments – to help develop specific approaches to overcome them. Our approaches include:

Working with others

  • Ensuring that the WASH sector incorporates principles of equality, inclusion and rights across all areas of policy and practice.
  • Generating evidence to highlight inequalities in WASH planning and service provision.
  • Connecting with others who promote the rights of marginalised groups to strengthen our expertise and promote the integration of inclusive and accessible WASH services in all sectors.
  • Supporting and advocating for greater inclusion of women and marginalised groups in WASH decision making at community, household, national and global levels so everyone's priorities and needs are better reflected by those working on WASH. 

Developing capacity

  • Working with duty-bearers (e.g. governments and service providers) to strengthen their capacity to fulfil their obligations to provide equitable and sustainable WASH services.
  • Empowering socially excluded people to participate in and have their voices actively heard in WASH decision making, WASH enterprises, and the development processes.

Delivering services

  • Conducting participatory accessibility and safety assessments, and gender equality assessments, of WASH facilities to identify the changes and improvements needed to ensure they suit the requirements of all users.
  • Promoting simple and accessible WASH service designs, such as safe and secure toilets with ramps and wider entrances for wheelchair users that can be effectively constructed, managed and maintained locally.
  • 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.

Latest resources and expert opinion

Top image: Lalita, 21, who has a disability, climbing the stairs at her school with support from her friends, Silika, left, and Aastha in Bardiya, Nepal, August 2023.

Second image: An illustration showing landmark posts made from local materials to guide people with visual and/or physical impairments.

Page last updated: May 2024