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.

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.

Chamanculo sanitation block, Maputo

Does improved sanitation mean healthier kids?

The MapSan trial was a major 4-year research project which aimed to evaluate the health impacts of a shared sanitation intervention delivered by WSUP in the slums of Maputo. It’s the largest ever high-rigour study of the health impacts of urban sanitation. And now the long-awaited results are out. By Guy Norman, WSUP’s Director of […]


UNC Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy, 2019

Join us at the 2019 Water and Health Conference to discuss how to assess WaSH services citywide, what role shared sanitation could have in bringing safely managed sanitation to all, and our experience supporting the development of inclusive sanitation markets. Findings from several Urban Sanitation Research Initiative projects will also be presented by our research […]


Call that a septic tank?

In a previous blog post back in January, we described the start of a research project which is aiming to assess and  model how faecal pathogens move through the environment in a low-income urban community in Dhaka in Bangladesh. By Guy Norman, WSUP’s Director of Research and Evaluation It’s one of our three biggest projects […]


Is slum sanitation likely to require major subsidy?

Improving sanitation in slum communities is a complex challenge. Particularly challenging is working out how it can be financed. By Guy Norman, WSUP’s Director of Research and Evaluation Now if you believe that subsidy is a Bad Thing or just ain’t ever gonna happen, you might approach slum sanitation by first assessing what slumdwellers are […]


Gasia_Poa_pit-emptying_business_Kisumu

What is the market like for pro-poor, safe emptying services in Kisumu, Kenya?

In Kisumu, Kenya, the majority of households rely on pit latrines but most pit emptiers do not work safely – which is bad for the customer, the neighbourhood, and the emptiers themselves. This lack of adequate services is an opportunity for those who can deliver safely managed sanitation services to customers, including those in low-income […]


Experience from SHARE, REACH and the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative

Delivering high-quality research can be challenging. But achieving research uptake – impact on policy or other aspects of the “real world” – is enormously challenging. In low-income contexts the barriers to achieving change can seem profound, in view of economic and capacity limitations. In fact, achieving policy change may not necessarily be more difficult in low-income contexts than in wealthier contexts (for example, Rwanda and Kenya outlawed plastic bags almost overnight, whereas even the most ambitious EU countries set targets 3-5 years into the future). Nonetheless, it’s clear that using research to drive meaningful change is far from straightforward.

This Discussion Paper considers the experience of three ongoing research-into-use programmes: we identify the major challenges we have faced in achieving research uptake, and discuss strategies we are using (or that we might use in future) to overcome those challenges.

All three programmes are core-funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).