Gender equality and climate resilience: foundations for water, sanitation and hygiene for all

Sumi (18), grade 12 student, is living on the banks of the Sutarkhali River with her family. Tidewaters overflow this area regularly and the recent super cyclone Amphan destroyed most of the riverside toilets. As it is a coastal region, as well as the ...
Image: WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

Gender and climate change must be fully integrated into water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems, and efforts to expand them, for everyone, everywhere to have access by 2030. This new report highlights some key opportunities and approaches for applying a gender-responsive and climate-resilient lens to WASH.

With less than a decade to the deadline, efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 must ramp up to meet the targets of WASH for all by 2030. We can only achieve these targets if we address the underlying issues of gender inequality and, to ensure these efforts are sustainable and not temporary, WASH policies and systems must adapt to the effects of climate change so that they can still function through extreme weather events and keep communities resilient.

By 2030, all WASH systems and efforts to expand them must fully integrate the issues of gender and climate change. This new report sets out the key interlinkages between gender equality, climate change and WASH systems. It highlights three key opportunities to address the gender inequalities and climate impacts that often arise during work to expand or improve access to WASH services:

  1. Understanding diverse needs and vulnerabilities to reach everyone
  2. Connecting fragmented silos to generate true resilience
  3. Addressing power imbalances for meaningful solutions

The report also identifies four approaches that can be combined to address these opportunities: initial multi-contextual analysis, inclusive partnerships, multi-sectoral engagement and the integration of diverse knowledge and experiences. These insights are valuable to those working to achieve SDG6, from national governments to donors to development partners.

Top image: Sumi and her family live on a riverbank in Bangladesh, which makes them susceptible to flooding. When a cyclone destroyed all the riverside toilets, women in the community were particularly affected. Khulna, Bangladesh. August 2020.