Access to water, sanitation and hygiene takes on particular importance for women and girls given their traditional role as stewards of household water and managers of household sanitation, their reproductive and menstrual health needs, and their role in caring for home, children and elderly and/or sick relatives.
Despite this, women are often left out of critical discussion and decisions relating to water, sanitation and hygiene. Policies, programmes and initiatives that promote opportunities for women to take on leadership roles improves decision-making on water and sanitation services.
When women are included in decision-making on water, sanitation and hygiene issues, services tend to be more accessible and sustainable, and key matters, such as menstrual health requirements, which tend to be ignored or silenced are brought to the fore. Furthermore, ensuring sustainable and affordable access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene empowers women and girls –allowing them to attend school and work, playing an important role in society and can reach their full potential.
SWA partners work together to prioritize gender-responsive approaches in actions and policies, thus contributing to achieving SDG5 -Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Equality and non-discrimination, which includes considerations of gender, are cross-cutting principles that permeate all SWA activities: from the way governments develop national sanitation plans, to the issues that are prioritized at SWA High-Level Meetings, to the people that participate in SWA panel discussions and events. Activities include support for research on gender and access to sanitation and water; advocacy and support for gender-positive policies, strategies and plans; and the encouragement of the meaningful participation of women in management bodies and planning processes at all country levels.
At global level, SWA works with partners to ensure that sector guidance is gender-responsive and -sensitive and that women and girls are empowered and reach their full potential. In October 2019, SWA launched Gender Month in order to draw attention to gender in SWA partners' work.