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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