WSUP’s experience is that urban water, sanitation, and hygiene programmes can and should extend beyond the provision of better services towards addressing wider issues of gender inequality.
We do this by promoting women’s representation in positions of leadership, and their participation in the local economy; by working to reform attitudes towards gender; and supporting local service providers to develop gender-inclusive policies and strategies. WSUP’s aim is to contribute towards the development of cities in which women can strive for genuine economic and social equality.
Providing gender-sensitive water and sanitation infrastructure
We pursue a gender sensitive approach towards the provision of water and sanitation infrastructure and services, taking into account the specific needs of women and girls.
This work involves putting a particular focus on giving women and girls a voice, and incorporating their recommendations into designs for sanitation blocks and water facilities.
An example of this is our work in Maputo, Mozambique, where women have been heavily involved in the design, construction and management of new shared facilities.
Promoting gender transformative approaches
In order to address some of the underlying reasons behind gender inequality, women and girls need to feel empowered, and social attitudes need to be reformed.
WSUP encourages women’s participation and leadership in service providers and community groups, building their capacity to influence key decisions within their community.
Our work improves women’s access to economic opportunities, through their involvement in operation and management of facilities.
And thirdly, by raising awareness of menstrual hygiene, showing that women can be involved in the management and construction of services, and engaging men to act as champions for gender equality we are able to challenge taboos and gender norms.
We wanted to make our ward clean. We helped in the construction of toilets, and we constructed rallies in the ward to raise public awareness about using the toilets.
Supporting service providers to develop gender inclusive policies and services
Real progress towards gender-inclusive water, sanitation, and hygiene will not be possible without political will and clear commitment from service providers to institutionalise the principles of gender equity.
WSUP works closely with service providers, such as utilities and municipal authorities, to achieve this.
In Kenya, for example, we have supported the Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company (NCWSC) in devising a gender and disability strategy which incorporates both customer-facing and internal components.
In addition to strengthening the provision of gender-friendly services, NCWSC’s organisational target is now to achieve 30% female staff.