A shared agenda: exploring the links between water, sanitation, hygiene and sexual and reproductive health and rights in sustainable development

Posted by
Health, Equality, inclusion and human rights
Eva Paulo with her baby daughter, Neema Nkwaya, one day old, at home. Without a clean water source the baby remains at high risk of infection. Nyarugusu, Geita District, Tanzania, September 2017.
Image: WaterAid/ Sam Vox

Across the globe, too many people do not have access to adequate sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education and services. As a result, they cannot enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights over the course of their lives.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) play a significant role in the quality of SRHR service delivery and in ensuring rights. Where WASH facilities and services are weak or missing from SRHR systems and services, positive health outcomes are compromised. Unhygienic conditions in healthcare facilities with inadequate WASH and substandard infection prevention and control measures increase risks to women and newborns, and delay or prevent people from seeking SRH care. Poor access to gender-sensitive WASH facilities limits women’s and girls’ ability to manage their periods privately and hygienically.

We partnered with leading sexual and reproductive health and rights organisations – International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), Marie Stopes International (MSI) and Simavi – to examine the critical role of WASH in SRHR.

Together we propose a shared agenda and way forward, with five key action areas:

  1. Strengthen the links between SRHR and WASH as fundamental elements of building stronger health systems and improved access to quality services and care.
  2. Ensure joint SRHR and WASH capacity strengthening at all levels of government.
  3. Increase the focus on menstrual health as a critical pathway to improving SRH.
  4. Develop and promote a shared advocacy agenda for a gender and rights-based approach to SRH and WASH.
  5. Collaborate within and across the SRHR and WASH sectors, to build a stronger evidence base to inform best practice and decision making.