Integrating gender equality into community water, sanitation and hygiene projects – guidance notes

WaterAid/ Basile Ouedraogo

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and gender equality are often treated as separate thematic areas, even though they are fundamentally linked. These guidance notes aim to support companies, NGOs and implementing partners to turn strategic commitments on community WASH and gender equality into integrated projects.

Around the world, one in ten people don’t have access to clean water close to home, more than one in five don’t have a decent toilet of their own, and almost one in three don't have soap and water to wash their hands. Significant evidence and decades of experience has shown how women and girls are disproportionately affected when communities don't have clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene – and how climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating those challenges further. Moreover, women and girls bear the brunt of inadequate WASH services, while women’s unpaid labour plugs the gaps in services and systems at home, at work, and in schools and healthcare facilities.

Too often, WASH and gender equality are treated as separate thematic areas, led by different teams with independent projects, targets and indicators. Yet, the issues are fundamentally linked.

WaterAid, Diageo and The Coca-Cola Company have collaborated to create practical guidance to support companies and their implementing partners to turn their strategic commitments on community WASH and gender equality into integrated projects that result in better, more sustainable WASH outcomes.

This guidance builds on the innovative Ripple Effect study by USAID, the Global Water Challenge and IPSOS under the Water and Development Alliance, with funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation. The study delivered quantitative and qualitative evidence that clean water uniquely empowers women and transforms communities.

The guidance is split into two documents:

  • One for companies explaining why they should invest in, and take an integrated approach to, WASH and gender equality and women’s empowerment projects, setting out what approaches are needed and how to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment into WASH projects.
  • One for NGOs and implementing partners outlining how gender responsive processes and objectives can be embedded into the design of WASH projects to ensure they contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment at multiple levels – household, community, national and global – through direct programming and wider policy changes that create enabling environments that facilitate gender equality.

We encourage companies and their implementing partners to read and use these documents when designing and implementing their community WASH projects.

To learn more about how WaterAid can support your WASH and gender equality initiatives, please contact [email protected].

Top image: Members of  the Benkadi women's group standing together inside their market garden at Kakounouso, Segou, Mali.