The AIRWASH Project in Ethiopia works with both men and women to enhance women’s participation and to allow women to voice their needs in activities related to sanitation and hygiene.
Photo: © Helvetas

Gender and social inclusion in WASH – how to put it into practice

How can women play a stronger role in the WASH sector? How to enhance their voice in planning and decision-making? And how can WASH be used as an entry point to gradually change the position of women in society?

Empowering and involving women in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related activities is one focus of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation. The Amhara Integrated Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (AIRWASH) project in Ethiopia is an example of how to improve the living conditions of socially disadvantaged women and girls through enhancing their capacity and their access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene.

Helvetas’ gender and social inclusion in WASH approach builds on three pillars:

Women and disadvantaged groups’ voice and leadership are increased through empowerment and capacity building. Activities range from raising awareness and changing the perception of women’s role in society in schools and communities to increasing women’s self-confidence and capacity to speak up and take over key roles in planning and decision-making processes. Reducing and redistributing unpaid care work of women or training and facilitating women as WASH entrepreneurs are further ways to progressively change their social role and improve economic perspectives.

Focus is also laid on gender and socially inclusive WASH infrastructure and sector systems. This goal is achieved by strengthening the willingness and capacity of sector actors (government, civil society, private sector) with a focus on local authorities to plan, implement and monitor WASH services in a gender and socially inclusive way. Furthermore, gender and socially inclusive WASH technologies and services can be demonstrated or WASH services are provided with menstrual hygiene facilities and products in households, schools and health facilities.

At national, regional and global level, Helvetas promotes gender and socially inclusive WASH policies and practices through knowledge sharing, scaling-up and advocacy. 

The Amhara Integrated Rural WASH (AIRWASH) project

One example of how Helvetas increases women and disadvantaged groups’ voice and leadership is the Amhara Integrated Rural WASH (AIRWASH) project in Ethiopia. The project had initially focused specifically on capacity building of individuals. Capacity building in households and communities was later on added to the intervention. This new emphasis highlights the significance of gender division of labour and of actively engaging women in gender equality at three levels – individual, household and community. The aim was to stimulate the behavioural change of men and transform gender roles by promoting more gender-equitable relationships between men and women.

Daya Moser, HELVETAS, Switzerland

More information:

Helvetas Amhara Integrated Rural Wash Project (AIRWASH)

Factsheet “When couples work together”