2. Gender and Emergency WASH

Conflicts and natural disasters affect women, girls, boys and men differently; they face different risks and are victimized in different ways. Humanitarian actors should understand these differences and ensure that services and aid delivered assist all segments of the population and do not put some at risk. Beyond the obvious importance of meeting basic needs and preventing disease, access to adequate and appropriate WASH facilities plays an important role in the protection and dignity of displaced individuals, particularly girls, women and other vulnerable groups. Providing water and sanitation facilities alone will not guarantee their optimal use, nor will it necessarily improve public health. Only a gender-sensitive, participatory approach at all stages of a project can help ensure that an adequate and efficient service is provided.

In many cultures, the responsibility of collecting water and maintaining hygiene standards falls to women and girls and yet despite increasing gender awareness, all too often the perspectives and roles of women and other groups in WASH are ignored or undervalued due to perceived cultural sensitivities, whereas, in practice, cultural boundaries are flexible and appropriate interventions can take advantage of this. We must recognize this central role of women in managing water, sanitation and hygiene and ensure they have an equal voice in the emergency response.

To promote dignity, water points and sanitary facilities must be designed to cater to the special needs of different vulnerable groups including women and children. Properly located water and sanitation facilities will help to promote equal access while reducing the risk of violence.

By ensuring we position women, girls and other vulnerable groups at the center of our emergency WASH response, we can help ensure facilities are used properly, and reduce the risk of disease, while also promoting dignity and reducing the risk of violence against women and girls. The involvement of vulnerable groups during an emergency is empowering and can help affected communities appreciate that everyone has a right, as equal human beings to participate in issues that affect their lives and those of their families and that women and other groups can and do make a significant contribution to water and sanitation services.

In an emergency program these are considered to be the key areas to focus on to ensure gender issues are appropriately addressed.

  1. Assessments analyze and respond to gender roles and responsibilities and their differences between men and women, boys and girls
  2. Targeted actions are based on gender analysis
  3. Equitable access to water and sanitation facilities is ensured through inclusive participation and decision making
  4. Dignity, privacy and safety for affected populations using water, sanitation and bathing facilities is achieved.
  5. Monitoring and learning is based on sex-and age-disaggregated data and data is reported on and used to adapt programs.

For more information on Gender and Emergency WASH see also :

And have a look at the Practitioners Toolkit: Violence, Gender and WASH