Women and girls living in Kenya’s low-income settlements frequently lack access to basic menstrual hygiene materials.

This Practice Note details the development of a business model for low-cost sanitary products in Naivasha, the setbacks encountered, and what WSUP has learnt from the pilot intervention.

Illegal water connections Biafra, Nairobi

Citywide access to water and sanitation services in Kenya

Clean, piped water brings dignity to people, reduces living costs, frees up time – and crucially, given the situation right now, is a critical defence against infectious diseases. With the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has been working with Kenyan city authorities to […]


Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management limits the voice and participation of women decision-makers and can perpetuate inequities throughout the sanitation sector. To address this, the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative aims to analyse gender inequity in educational and professional settings of sanitation-related organisations.

  • Among staff at sanitation-related public-sector institutions in Kenya, a large majority of both men and women recognise that women have different needs and priorities when it comes to sanitation.
  • Both men and women showed awareness of the needs of women regarding particular attributes of latrines, such as menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities or physical safety.
  • A more participatory approach allowed more gendered perspectives and seemed to lead to gender-sensitive programming and policies; an infrastructure-led approach, focusing more on hardware installation and less on participation, led to less gender-sensitive programming and policies.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; more information about the project and other reports can be found here.

Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management limits the voice and participation of women decision-makers and can perpetuate inequities throughout the sanitation sector. To address this, the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative aims to analyse gender inequity in educational and professional settings of sanitation-related organisations.

  • Women working at sanitation-related public-sector institutions in Kenya reported challenges at work, which limited their professional aspirations, their voice and their influence on policies.
  • Barriers exist at all stages of career development: girls face gender bias in school when pursuing technical degrees; young career-women must balance greater familial obligations than men; and mid-career women lack many of the networking opportunities that men have.
  • Bullying and sexual harassment of women have not been adequately addressed thus far, leaving some women with little support and few alternatives.

It is crucial for the sanitation sector to meet the basic needs of their female staff, such as:

  1. Full access to MHM-friendly latrines at all sites, including waste treatment plants and field sites.
  2. Maternity and paternity leave, flexible scheduling and lactation rooms for new mothers
  3. For young mothers and fathers, create nearby or on-site alternatives to workshops and conferences that require travel. When travel is unavoidable, make arrangements for young mothers to return quickly in an emergency.
  4. Provide PPE that are designed for women, for all jobs that require protective gear.
  5. Create a culture that is intolerant to sexual jokes in professional settings. Create confidential systems that protect victims of sexual harassment, and discourage sexual predators.
  6. Create professional groups, systems and events which allow women to network, mentor and support each other, during hours and in locations that are friendly to women.
  7. Educate managers and staff of the benefits of both gender equity among staff, and equal representation of women and men among management.
  8. Make salary structures and promotion policies transparent and ensure that all employees are considered equally.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; more information about the project and other reports can be found here.

Rasoa, resident in Antananarivo

Bright water, bright future: climate resilient services in Madagascar

For residents of Antananarivo like Rasoa, access to reliable water sources is essential in the face of increasing water scarcity. Across the globe climate change is affecting the most vulnerable people in cities the most. For Madagascar’s peri-urban communities alternating severe droughts and flooding are making it harder for people to access safe, clean water […]


Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management limits the presence, voice, participation and power of women decision-makers. These gender-based inequities can then be perpetuated throughout the sanitation sector, as the needs of women and girls are inadequately addressed by programs and policies that are designed largely by men. A seemingly simple way to address women’s access to sanitation and related issues is to increase the representation of women in firms and public bodies that design products, services and interventions in the WaSH sector.

We hypothesize that increasing diversity in the design and development of products and services will help to ensure that all users are well represented, and the unique needs and problems of each user type will be more likely to be addressed.

Under this hypothesis, addressing the unique and pressing needs of women and girls in the sanitation sector requires a look behind the curtain, interrogating the internal workings of the organisations that make and implement sanitation policy, regulation and services.

Our project aims to do this in the Kenyan sanitation sector, through two objectives: (i) identify the barriers that women face in attaining decision-making posts in sanitation-related public institutions in Kenya and (ii) interrogate whether women prioritize different things when it comes to access to sanitation, as compared to male leaders in this field.

Emerging findings on gender and decision making in sanitation public bodies

This International Women’s Day, we are sharing some emerging findings from a research project to show how in sanitation, an equal world is an enabled world. For International Women’s Day last year, we wrote about a new research project examining the gender split of staff in Kenyan sanitation public institutions. These include utilities, government bodies […]


The Urban Sanitation Research Initiative aims to analyse the internal workings of organisations that make and implement sanitation policy, regulation and services to address four specific questions: (a) the gender balance in decision-making/technical roles in these organisations; (b) how attitudes to sanitation vary between male and female decision-makers; (c) the key barriers to female participation in these roles; (d) provide recommendations for equitable recruitment, placement and career advancement of women.

Across six national and County sanitation-related institutions in Kenya, an average of 37% of top-level staff were women. Corporate leadership roles are particularly unevenly split between genders.

This mapping exercise is part of a wider analysis of attitudes of decision-makers in the sanitation sector in Kenya and the barriers to these roles for women.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; a summary of a literature review from this project can be found here.

Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management can perpetuate inequities throughout the sanitation sector, limiting the voice and participation of women decision-makers.

A literature review was completed as part of a research project analysing the internal workings of organisations that contribute to and implement sanitation services and policy in Kenya.

Despite evidence that equal gender representation at managerial levels can increase firm performance and the quality of services provided, women are still under-represented in sanitation governance globally and in Kenya.

Numerous barriers to advancement exist at various stages, from a bias against women training in STEM fields to hostile work environments that discourage advancement.

Significant gaps remain in the literature on women working and progressing in sanitation and other technical fields.

The next stage of the research is to assess (a) the gender balance in decision-making/technical roles in these organisations; (b) how attitudes to sanitation vary between male and female decision-makers; (c) and the key barriers to female participation in these roles. This will lead to recommendations for equitable recruitment, placement and career advancement of women.

The full literature review can be accessed here.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; results from a mapping exercise of sanitation public bodies in Kenya can be found here.

Aims

This project will deliver an analysis of the barriers that prevent women in Kenya taking leadership roles in sanitation (particularly urban), and aim to identify ways in which those barriers might be overcome. This project aims to assess 1) the gender balance in decision-making/technical roles in Kenya’s sanitation-relevant public institutions, 2) the barriers to female participation in those roles, 3) how attitudes to urban sanitation vary between male and female decision-makers, and 4) how existing barriers might be overcome.

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