Building skills towards inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene

Erick Baetings, senior sanitation specialist at IRC, discusses the eye-opening experience watching a group of Cambodian actors use their talent to portray the difficulties people with disability face when accessing toilet facilities. The performance drew the conclusion of the Asia Regional Learning Event on sustainable and inclusive sanitation services, held in Cambodia by the Ministry of Rural Development and SNV this month. Baetings describes the performance as a “timely wakeup call”, that goes beyond sanitation specialists knowing and understanding disability and sanitation accessibility, to ensure knowledge translates into action. Read the blog here

This 2016 Exploratory Study on Menstruation Management in Timor-Leste was commissioned by the BESIK program to gain insights to the factors that affect menstruation management among rural women in Timor-Leste. Insights gained from this research will be used to influence the design of sanitation programs.

The UN Special Rapporteur for human rights to water and sanitation has published a report on the links between gender equality, WASH and human rights.

Between October and November 2015 the Rural Water Supply Network’s Equality, Non-discrimination and Inclusion theme enjoyed lively e-discussions and two webinars on Reducing Inequalities in WASH. This covered 1) practical approaches to improve participation of everyone, 2) inclusive infrastructure designs and 3) information, guidance and support that exist on these. This report synthesises these online discussions, draws on relevant content from the webinars and highlights experiences and lessons learn.

The report can be found on the Rural Water Supply Network here.

A great e-disucssion presented by the Civil Society (CS) WASH Fund and led by Professor Juliet Willets throughout April/May 2016. The thread discusses how Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are working to effectively support sanitation, products and services, while concurrently ensuring pro-poor targeting and affordability. The e-discussion presents a comprehensive range of practice and experiences of CSOs using sanitation marketing to increase sanitation coverage and accessibility and address inequity.

The thread can be found on the CS Wash Fund here.

People with disability in developing countries experience additional and exacerbated barriers in accessing water, sanitation and hygiene. This puts them at increased risk of related health impacts, as well as experiences of stigmatisation, marginalisation and lower self-esteem. These are among the many reasons why the mainstreaming of disability in development, and disability inclusion, is essential to achieving universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

In acknowledgement of International Day of Persons with Disability on 3 December 2015, Bond published an interesting article celebrating best practice examples of disability inclusion for organisations that do not necessarily specialise in disability. Find the article here.

Why achieving gender equality is central to solving the global water crises.

The month of March celebrates two important days: it begins with International Womens Day (8 March) and ends with World Water Day (22 March).

I’m bringing the two together to illustrate why women’s empowerment and solving the global water crisis are integral to one another.

In developing countries women and girls often play a central role delivering water to their community. Typically women and girls spend a large part of their day walking long distances to collect water. After carrying heavy tubs of water home along uneven terrains they then spend time preparing the water to drink, using it to prepare and cook food for their families.

Today marks the 23rd annual World Water Day, and this year’s theme is “water and jobs”. It presents an opportunity to pause and recognise the contribution that women and girls make in addressing the global water crisis.

In Timor-Leste WaterAid has been working with women in rural communities to make water more accessible. Women have been trained to become technical specialists as they fix existing water points in their community that were left broken following the war for independence.

This has meant that the women and girls don’t have to spend hours a day tackling the uneven terrain to collect water.

Photo credit: WaterAid/Tim Greenwood.

Julia Soares, 37, from Timor-Leste says, “We used to go to the river to collect water. I had to walk through a lot of grass and forest to get there. It took one hour from here and one hour back. I had to collect water three times a day.”

Girls in the communities now have more time to spend in school and women have more time to participate in economic activities. Women and girls now have greater capacity for independence and economic contribution, and feel freer to do leisure activities.

Julie continued, “We are really happy to have clean water. Now there is clean water it is very easy for us to cook food, to wash and use the toilet. I can concentrate on working the farm and looking after the children.”

Young children in Timor-Leste enjoying the clean water. Photo credit: WaterAid/Tim Greenwood.

This reminds us also that there is a strong connection between two of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 5 seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and Goal 6 aims to achieve access to water and sanitation for all. As the global community works together to achieve the Global Goals by 2030, Goal 5 and Goal 6 will not be achieved without the other.

This World Water Day, let’s recognise that the rights of women and girls are a central pillar of addressing the global water crises and achieving gender equality. By recognising this and working with women to increase their capacity in WASH, women and girls can be empowered and achieve progress towards gender equality.

In celebration of International Day of People with Disabilities 2014, WEDC, WaterAid and Share have published a new resource: A compendium of Accessible WASH Technologies. The Compendium is designed for use by staff working directly with communities – e.g. health workers and community volunteers working with people with disabilities and older people and their families in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The compendium can be used in many ways including as a starting point for discussion with households, as a way of encouraging communities to consider design options, and by Disabled People’s Organisations or as flash cards or posters.

See the full Compendium here.

Two New films on Inclusive WASH from WaterAid.

  1. WaterAid Nepal has produced a new film focussing on the barriers disabled people face in accessing WASH. It touches upon environmental and institutional barriers and stigma in Nepal.
  2. WaterAid Uganda has produced a new film as part of the ‘Undoing Inequity – WASH Programmes that deliver services for all. This film gives an overview of the programme and covers issues that relate to costs of inclusive WASH services in Uganda.

Disability and WASH at the UNGA

WaterAid has participated in the first United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disability and Development.

Disability Rights Activist Sagar Prasain attended the event on behalf of WaterAid to highlight the importance of WASH for disabled people. You can download the flyer we created to raise awareness on the issue at this event below.

Disability and WASH (UNGA Flyer 2013)

Mr Prasain has been working for WaterAid Nepal as an Equity and Inclusion consultant. He has made a great film depicting the different barriers disabled people face with regards to access to WASH A Difficulty journey to the toilet and also contributed widely to this blog.