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WASHfunders’ Recommended Reading section has expanded with the recent addition of some new publications. Resources added in the past several months include:

Leave No One Behind: Voices of Women, Adolescent Girls, Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Sanitation Workforce summarizes the sanitation and hygiene hopes and aspirations of thousands of women and men of different ages and physical ability, across rural and urban areas in eight South Asian countries.

Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Nutrition in Bangladesh: Can Building Toilets Affect Children's Growth? provides a systematic review of the evidence to date, both published and grey literature, on the relationship between water and sanitation and nutrition. 

Building Towards a Future in Which Urban Sanitation Leaves No One Behind analyzes the challenges to improving access to sanitation in towns and cities of the global South.

Sanitation and Child Health in India examines the effects of sanitation coverage and usage on child height for age in a semi-urban setting in Northern India.

New publications are added to WASHfunders’ Knowledge Center on a rolling basis, via IssueLab, a service of Foundation Center. And we accept suggestions! If you’d like us to add a case study, evaluation, white paper, or issue brief that is of interest to those in the social sector working in WASH, please contact us:

The Top 10 Groundbreaking Events to Have on the Radar for Menstrual Hygiene Day

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Danielle Keiser of WASH United, a Berlin-based organization that acts as the Secretariat for Menstrual Hygiene Day. In her post, Danielle provides a round-up of events being organized all over the world to draw attention to this critical development issue. To read more about how May 28 became Menstrual Hygiene Day, read Danielle’s post published last year on the WASHfunders blog.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘there’s a day for THAT?’

Yes, and there should be. Menstrual health and hygiene continues to be among the most challenging areas to address within the development arena. Not only do deep-rooted taboos and myths create the illusion that menstruation is inherently shameful or dirty, but in places such as South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, there is often times a lack of adequate sanitary materials and hygienic conditions (i.e. toilets, clean water and soap) to maintain good menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

As a matter of human rights, poor menstrual hygiene negatively impacts the education, health and economic potential of girls and women. A case study by UNICEF from Burkina Faso revealed that girls often have no safe or private place at school to change their menstrual materials, leading to the estimate that 1 in 10 African girls miss school during their periods. In India, access, affordability and disposal of menstrual materials is a colossal problem: a report by AC Nielsen, “Sanitary Protection: Every Woman's Health Right” revealed that 88% of women use old fabric, rags, or sand to manage their flow.

Recognizing the urgency of these challenges, we at WASH United initiated Menstrual Hygiene Day to encourage policy advocacy and grassroots action around the issue.

Here is a list of the top 10 events expected to make some noise and break the silence on Menstrual Hygiene Day:

10. Dar Es Salaam, TanzaniaHedhi Salama (Safe Menstruation) Campaign

Kasole Secrets will organize an advocacy event including a voluntary walk from the ministry of education to the celebration grounds with the Deputy Minister of Education as the special guest of honor. A press conference will be held on May 21.

9. Caen, France – Journee de L’hygiene et de la Menstruation

On Saturday May 30, Collectif Hygie will organize a day brimming with various activities intended to promote a better relationship with menstruation including yoga lessons that introduce postures to relieve discomfort during periods and a round-table panel on the theme ‘ending the hesitation around menstruation’ (featuring a gynecologist, medics, an artist, an osteopath specialized in gynecology, and community members).

8. Kampala, Uganda – Celebration and Advocacy Walk

MH Day will kick off with an advocacy walk organized by AfriPads in the center of Kampala to raise awareness about MHM. The walk will end at the Parliament of Uganda where all participants will sign the MHM Charter with a press conference soon thereafter. There will also be an exhibition, a seminar about MHM, a 'creative corner' where people can share poems and creative expressions about MHM, and an MHM tent where people can make bracelets. There will also be performances later in the day by various Ugandan artists.

7. Bristol, UKTalk.Period Celebrates in Bristol

This day-long event organized by no more taboo and Grace & Green comprises of a menstrual hygiene exhibition, sustainability workshops, and a teen debate. In the evening, there will be a screening of Menstrual Man and a lively discussion about menstrual waste, homelessness and periods, and the taxation of feminine hygiene products.

6. New York City, USA – Why Menstruation Matters in Sustainable Development

Organized by over 10 partners in the New York area, this interactive workshop will explore a variety of cross-cutting issues inextricably linked to menstrual hygiene in New York and around the world, including the advancement of education, the assurance of health, the strengthening of the economy, environmental protection, and the realization of human rights. International speakers include Stand4Education in South Sudan, NFCC International in Nepal, Huru International in Kenya, and the Museum of Sex in NYC. Participants working in development, journalists covering development issues, and individuals with a passion about these topics are all welcome.

5. Various districts, Pakistan – High-level advocacy meetings and MHM awareness creation

Members of IRSP, KRDO and SDS will meet with government bodies and NGOs working with children and human rights in Mardan, Peshawar, and Khairpur to ensure that menstrual hygiene becomes a priority in all future WASH and development projects. The goals of the meetings are to highlight the impact of poor MHM and how it affects Pakistani society as a whole as well as to develop an action plan among donors, state policy makers, women’s and children’s rights activists, and the health and education sectors.

4. Dhaka, Bangladesh – Dhaka Celebrates Menstrual Hygiene Day 2015

Youth’s Voice Foundation will be organizing an event where over 300 students, NGOs, and local celebrities will come together for an interactive workshop intended to bring the taboo topic of menstrual hygiene out of the dark and into the spotlight. The workshop will include short film screenings and a game-based MHM training as well as breakout sessions on how to make reusable pads. Click here for more information.

3. Various counties, Kenya – Ending the Hesitation Around Menstruation

The Ministry of Health and other key stakeholders will join together for a national event in Kwale County organized by WASH United. The event is focused on opening up the discussion about taboos and challenges related to MHM that girls and women in different settings face. Additionally, in collaboration with the Cabinet Secretary of Health, there will be an event in Muranga where sanitary pads will be distributed to 500 girls. In partnership with Soroptomist International, WASH United will also be implementing MHM interventions with schools and women’s prisons in Kakamega, Nairobi, and Kisumu counties.

2. Washington DC, USA – The Voices of Why Menstruation Matters

More than 20 organizations including WASH Plus & WASH Advocates will host an exciting learning and advocacy event on menstrual hygiene. Through dynamic speakers, voices of girls from around the world, and exhibitions of solutions, the event will shine light on the important link between access to menstrual hygiene management and water, sanitation, and hygiene, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and the realization of fundamental human rights. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in direct advocacy for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene in global policies on sustainable development and girls’ education and will leave the event empowered to continue advocacy for menstrual hygiene in their own communities and spheres of influence.

1. New Delhi, India – National Workshop to Ignite Action for MHM under the Swacch Bharat Mission

In coordination with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS), WASH United, UNICEF, Water Aid, and other Indian partners, will be presenting and unpacking the soon-to-be released official MHM guidelines to State-level officials from MDWS and other relevant ministries. The event is designed to share learnings and best practices from different states and put the gears into motion for a government-mandated MHM action plan for each state.

Raise awareness in your own city or town!

Imagine a day in which your access to clean, drinkable water ceased and you could not shower or bathe properly and you had no one to help you. For more than 783 million people around the world, that day was today. In 2015, more than 2.5 billion people will also lack access to basic sanitation in the developing world. 

A new initiative led by Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) is aiming to dramatically reduce those numbers, focusing specifically on women -- who often bear the brunt of the impact from lack of access to safe water; and in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa walk up to four hours per day, on average, to carry clean water back to their villages and families.

Two Ghanaian women trained by World Vision and DRI prepare water samples in a field water quality lab in Ghana. Photo Credit: DRI

Two Ghanaian women trained by World Vision and DRI prepare water samples in a field water quality lab in Ghana. Photo Credit: DRI

“As part of DRI’s Global Water Knowledge Campaign, this Initiative builds on more than 20 years of water research and training our scientists have done in West Africa,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President. “By raising support to provide women throughout these developing countries with access to adequate water sources and access to training we will ensure their family’s well-being and allow them more time to contribute to their villages.”

The DRI Sustainable Water Initiative is a unique, international collaboration with WaterAidWater for People, and World Vision. Collaboratively, these three world renowned organizations currently have water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in more than 41 countries. Since 1981, WaterAid has helped 21.2 million people gain access to safe water. In 2013, Water for People raised more than $14 million to support their “Everyone Forever” campaign, providing water and sanitation services in more than 15 countries. Currently, World Vision’s WASH programs reach one million beneficiaries per year.

“The knowledge and experience of these organizations working together (in the WASH sector) will be transformational for the regions being served,” said Charles Creigh, DRI Foundation Chair. “Through a generous challenge-grant investment from two long-time DRI Foundation leaders this global campaign plans to support DRI faculty and students helping to advance our knowledge of water related issues and improve people’s lives and well-being.”

Dr. Braimah Apambire, who will lead the new Initiative and serves as director of DRI’s Center for International Water and Sustainability, explained that funding will go directly to supporting provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation; creating and implementing WASH education materials for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa; training of WASH staff; applied water research; and ensuring that WASH projects are sustainable and scalable in developing countries.

The impact of unsafe water, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is felt around the world, with both human health and economic implications, Apambire explained.

In places like sub-Saharan Africa a significant percentage of the population is at risk of dying from preventable illnesses, many of which are linked to WASH issues. More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation - that's over 1,400 children per day. Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old in sub-Saharan Africa.

In economic terms, 5.6 billion productive work days are lost every year due to complications arising from water-related diseases and the burden of fetching water.

Helping to manage and raise awareness for the DRI Sustainable Water Initiative will be Global Impact, a well-known leader in growing global philanthropy. Global Impact works with approximately 450 public and private workplace giving campaigns to generate funding for an alliance of more than 120 international charities. Since 1956, Global Impact has generated more than $1.7 billion to help the world’s most vulnerable people.

“One organization working alone is not enough to make the sustainable difference that is needed in the WASH sector,” said Scott Jackson, President and CEO of Global Impact. “All of these stakeholders working together will help ensure access to clean water, which does more than save a woman’s life – it ensures her future.”

For more information about DRI’s Sustainable Water Initiative visit -

Stella Artois has announced a $1.2 million grant to in support of an initiative to end daily, time-consuming journeys to collect water by women in the developing world.

According to the company, women around the world spend a collective two hundred million hours a year collecting clean water for their families. The company’s Buy a Lady a Drink campaign aims to make clean water more accessible and promote awareness of the global water crisis by inviting consumers to purchase limited-edition chalices inspired by traditional handcrafted objects from three of the developing countries where operates, including textiles from India, baskets from Ethiopia, and pottery from Honduras. Proceeds from the campaign will help support the nonprofit organization.

In addition, Stella Artois and have enlisted a number of creative artists to produce films and photography for the campaign. They include Grammy Award-nominated directors Frederick Scott and Nicholas Jack Davies and photographer Chris Ozer, who traveled to India to film and photograph real stories of women who have been affected by the water crisis.

"’s current success shows we can make a difference in solving the water crisis," said Stella Artois global vice president Debora Koyama. "As a key ingredient in our beers, water is a natural resource Stella Artois aims to protect and preserve."

"Stella Artois and, With the Support of Co-Founders Matt Damon and Gary White, Launch “Buy a Lady a Drink” to Help Stop Women’s Journeys to Collect Water in the Developing World." Stella Artois Press Release 01/22/2015.

Alexandra Chitty, Research Uptake Officer at SHARE Research Consortium

Editor’s Note:This guest post is authored by Alexandra Chitty, Research Uptake Officer at SHARE Research Consortium. The Consortium comprises five organisations that have come together to generate research to inform policy and practice in the areas of sanitation and hygiene. In June, SHARE launched a toolkit on Violence, Gender and WASH, which brings together best practices as well as tools and policy responses to help make WASH safer. In her post, Alexandra shares the origins and goals of this project and describes the contents and reception of the toolkit.

The connection between poor WASH and gender-based violence has long been posited but, until recently, the realities of this relationship had received very little recognition or exploration. So, the SHARE Research Consortium, funded by DFID, decided to undertake research and learning on this issue and develop a Practitioner’s Toolkit on Violence, Gender and WASH in order to:

  • Shed light on the intricacies of this link
  • Raise awareness on types of violence which can occur with linkages to WASH
  • Offer practical guidance to practitioners on how to improve their programming and services to minimise the risks of gender-based and other types of violence, as well as how to respond to incidents of violence should they occur

You can view the toolkit here.

WASH and violence: the links

Although the root cause of violence is the differences in power between people, for instance between men and women or between people of different social groupings, poor access to WASH services can increase vulnerabilities to violence. A lack of access to a toilet in or near the home or poor access to water supply can lead to women and children defecating in the open after dark or having to walk long distances to collect water. This in turn can increase their vulnerability to harassment and violence, including sexual violence. A lack of easy access to water can also lead to tensions in the household or fights between neighbours or other users, particularly where water is scarce.       

The starting point for the research and the subsequent formulation of the toolkit was a need to better understand the scope and scale of the problem and to provide guidance for practitioners on how they can improve their programming to reduce these risks.

This bridge joins two areas of the community together. The banks are oftern used as a dumping ground for waste, and if people have constructed their own make-shift toilets, quite often they are situated along the banks, where children often play, Kamla Nehru Nagar, India. Credit: WaterAid/Jon Spaull

This bridge joins two areas of the community together. The banks are oftern used as a dumping ground for waste, and if people have constructed their own make-shift toilets, quite often they are situated along the banks, where children often play, Kamla Nehru Nagar, India. Credit: WaterAid/Jon Spaull

What’s in the toolkit?

The toolkit, co-published by 27 organisations, examines the available evidence around how a lack of access to appropriate WASH increases vulnerabilities to violence. Although much of the available evidence is anecdotal or from small scale studies, the research found case studies from more than 30 countries and a number of more in-depth qualitative and quantitative studies. A study in India, for example, found that women felt intense fear of sexual violence when accessing water and sanitation services. These findings were echoed in a similar study in Uganda where women reported that that journeying to use toilets, particularly at night, was dangerous for their security.

The toolkit provides practical guidance for policymakers, programme funding personnel, advocacy staff, implementers, trainers, monitoring and evaluation staff, and human resource staff on how the sector can help make WASH safer and more effective. For example, one of the ten key principles it advances is institutionalizing the requirement to analyse and respond to vulnerabilities to violence in WASH-related policies, strategies, plans, budgets and systems. To achieve this, organisations could, it suggests, undertake advocacy for increased attention on, and allocation of finances and resources to, reducing vulnerabilities to violence linked to WASH.

Key messages

Three main takeaways emerge from the toolkit:

  • Poor access to WASH services can increase vulnerabilities to violence, but the root cause of violence is the differences in power between people
  • Provision of WASH facilities alone cannot prevent any form of violence from occurring as they do not address the root cause of violence; for this wider societal change is required
  • WASH and associated practitioners can, however, make a very positive contribution to trying to reduce the exposure of those most vulnerable to violence

Progress so far

The toolkit was presented to DFID during World Toilet Day (2013) and was officially launched at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on 9th June 2014. There, participants discussed how to better to engage women and adolescent girls in programming, how to engage men and boys on issues of safety, and how best to encourage busy WASH practitioners to consider these issues and integrate considerations of violence into their work.

The toolkit was commended for being highly relevant to DFID’s commitment to reducing violence against women and girls and to WaterAid’s focus on equity and inclusion as a framework for WASH service delivery. UNICEF also indicated that the toolkit was being used to adapt WASH programming and facilities in South Sudan and would be beneficial to the on-going work updating the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings.

Professionals working in over 40 different countries and working for 132 different organisations/institutions have received copies of the toolkit. It has also been distributed through the headquarters of international organisations and can be downloaded here.

Drawing on the toolkit, WaterAid will lead a one day capacity development workshop on the nexus between violence, gender, and WASH at the 37th Water, Engineering and Development Centre Conference being held in Vietnam this September. You can register for this event here.

The authors hope this toolkit will be a valuable resource to WASH and associated practitioners working across the globe to reduce WASH-related vulnerabilities to violence.  For more information on the toolkit, please contact us by email:

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by David Winder, CEO of WaterAid America. In it, David discusses WaterAid’s work with communities in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and India to help them improve water and sanitation conditions in innovative and entrepreneurial ways. A version of the story originally appeared here.

Bio gas system in May Ayni, Ethiopia. Credit: WaterAid / Marco Betti

Bio gas system in May Ayni, Ethiopia. Credit: WaterAid / Marco Betti

The ongoing sustainability of the world's water usage is a hot topic. Not a week goes by without headlines announcing water wars, falling water tables or droughts. Water is a commodity in high demand by competing sectors (industry, agriculture and drinking water) and many people are seeking answers to how we might survive with a finite pool of it.

The ten percent of people worldwide who already live without safe drinking water don't need headlines to know that life without water is near impossible — every day they struggle for survival without access to this most basic of human rights. More often than not, they are without basic sanitation facilities, also causing disease and death.

But sparks of entrepreneurial spirit are shining brightly through the doom and gloom surrounding the global water and sanitation crisis, even in the most remote corners of the planet. Some of the world's poorest communities are inspiring us with their willingness and commitment to develop low-cost, innovative solutions to their water and sanitation problems. In many cases, these same solutions are bringing about even wider benefits for the communities involved, including improved health, agricultural and business opportunities.

Human waste can be a massive health risk — without proper sanitation facilities, diarrheal diseases such as typhoid and cholera are prevalent. In fact 2,000 children die every day from water-related diseases. But WaterAid is finding success working with communities willing to experiment with turning their human waste into a source of income and increased crop yields.

Urban slums are notorious for a lack of garbage disposal and sewerage systems, leaving residents vulnerable to poor health. But in the slums just outside of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, a women's collective is transforming the health and well-being of their community. With a little help and encouragement from WaterAid, this group of enterprising women runs a café, selling food cooked with biogas that is fueled by methane from human and other waste. In addition to offering healthy meals, community members are encouraged to take advantage of the café's toilets and shower facilities, which customers can use for a small fee. The café offers vital sanitation services for the community, and provides the women with a source of income and social standing.

The café has also spurred on other entrepreneurial activity. Twenty-four year-old Tigist started up her own garbage removal service, which has not only cleaned up her area and helps prevent disease, but empowered her to demand wages equal to those paid to men in her community. She's now earning ten times more than she was before, and is hiring four staff to help her collect the garbage. The garbage is then given to the café to use to help produce the biogas to fuel the kitchen.

Omar Salima, farmer, in his fields that he has fertilized with compost from the ecosan latrine, Matamangwe village, near Lichinga, Niassa province, Mozambique. Credit: WaterAid / Thérèse Mahon

Omar Salima, farmer, in his fields that he has fertilized with compost from the ecosan latrine, Matamangwe village, near Lichinga, Niassa province, Mozambique. Credit: WaterAid / Thérèse Mahon

In Niassa province in Mozambique, WaterAid is working with communities to turn their human waste into safe, renewable and highly effective compost. This compost is proving invaluable to otherwise poor farmers, who are now reaping the benefits of more robust harvests — and incomes. Known as ecological sanitation (EcoSan) or composting latrines, each toilet has twin pits. While one is in use, the other is sealed, and the contents, which are mixed with dirt and ash, decompose into rich compost that can then be dug out and used on fields.

Trials have shown that the composting latrines are significantly boosting crop yields. In one district in Niassa, the community saw unusually high rainfall, causing traditionally planted crops to rot. However, crops planted in soil mixed with the contents of EcoSan toilets thrived. The difference was startling. In fact, the maize plants grown with compost from the latrines towered over neighboring plants and fruit trees planted with the compost were the only ones laden with fruit. In another area of the province facing drought, farmers harvested a huge tobacco crop from a field planted with EcoSan compost, while nearby fields failed to sprout.

Similar innovations are revolutionizing poor people's access to water and helping them to earn a living. In India, where many water pumps lie disused due to ill-repair, WaterAid and local partner organizations have helped budding entrepreneurs to start pump and well repair businesses. These businesses ensure the sustainability of water supplies, while at the same time providing jobs to community members.

Handpump mechanic, Ram Rati, with the tools that she uses to repair waterpoints in Mahoba district, India. Credit: Esther Havens for The Adventure Project

Handpump mechanic, Ram Rati, with the tools that she uses to repair waterpoints in Mahoba district, India. Credit: Esther Havens for The Adventure Project

The mechanic training program in the district of Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh is a perfect example of this. In an area where 4,000 water pumps lie broken, WaterAid has worked with local people to set up a storefront and buy tools, bikes and water quality testing equipment. After training people from the community to become mechanics, including seven women, they started repairing pumps for any village willing to pay.

It worked. The mechanics have fixed over 300 pumps: pumps that help prevent disease, and that supply 30,000 people with fresh, clean water. What's more, the female mechanics have earned the respect of community members and feel empowered.

Such entrepreneurship is driving improvements in women's rights, prosperity, health and nutrition. Although small, these innovative water and sanitation projects are inspiring. In the face of adversity, communities are showing that a little creativity and the determined will to work hard to control their own destiny go a long way in helping escape the grips of poverty and providing a more secure future for their children.

Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Robert Hedlund, founder and CEO of Joint Development Associates (JDA) International. With a degree in Mining Engineering from Colorado School of Mines, Robert Hedlund spent 17 years in both underground and open pit mining operations before moving with his family to Uzbekistan in 1992, and founding JDA International, a humanitarian and development organization. Since 2001 JDA has been involved in rebuilding communities in northern Afghanistan. The organization’s current activities focus on appropriate farming methods and mechanization, WASH education, and birth life-saving skills (BLiSS) training in the region.

Girls enjoying a reliable source of clean well water at their school.

Girls enjoying a reliable source of clean well water at their school.

Widespread poverty and decades of war have made Afghanistan one of the worst places in the world for sanitation and hygiene. Despite ten years of international investment and relief work, it remains one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in the world. Eighty-five percent of the population lives a minimal subsistence life in desolate rural areas — no gas, electricity, or running water. Infant mortality is the highest in the world. Annually more than 85,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhea alone. The cause is almost always a lack of clean water. Seventy percent of rural areas don’t have a sustainable supply of safe water.

Challenges mirror those in other parts of the developing world. Thousands of previously donor-supported wells and hand pumps or community water systems are often useless or abandoned within a few months of installation because construction projects were implemented without community education or pump repair training. Additionally, WASH efforts geared toward Afghan women are particularly challenging due to overwhelming illiteracy — over 90% of the women are illiterate.

Joint Development Associates (JDA) International’s WASH initiative is multifaceted with strong emphasis on education, community initiative, and hands-on training. Based out of Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, JDA has been working with success in 10 villages in the Balkh province of northern Afghanistan. Effecting behavioral changes, lasting adoption, and transformation take time and commitment to long-term development. We consider ourselves a catalyst for transformation, and building community trust and relationships are central to how that change takes place.

Although our program is barely four years old, the dedication of our Afghan team is shaping new understanding and reducing diarrheal sickness and deaths in infants. The needs across the country are vast and our program comparatively small. Many cultural and traditional obstacles have to be overcome, such as the widespread practice of not providing liquids to infants when they have diarrhea or the misconception that canal water is safe to drink as long as it is moving.

Our WASH education program, which we introduced to rural villages and taught to illiterate women, is having tremendous impact on families’ lives. Initial contact with new villages is always preceded by meetings with elders and village leaders. Demand-driven and community supported projects include agreements to maintain new water points and send women for training. It is critical to first target women as they are the main influencers of households and in turn share the newly acquired practices with their children and husbands. In order to build community trust, WASH teams are led by Afghan female educators and training sessions are home-based. Participants learn about hand-washing, proper disposal of household waste and feces, other ways in which health is impacted by sanitation and hygiene practices, and the use of locally produced biosand filters. Using pictures and other visuals, lessons are tailored to the illiterate population.

Seeing behavioral changes and community transformation is exciting, and keeps me motivated to continue our work in Afghanistan and support this initiative. One participant, Halima, said: “When the instructor was teaching the diarrhea lesson, I thought of the woman in the story and how she could have been me. I would have done all that I knew to do, but my child would have died from diarrhea anyway. Then I would always have wondered what could I have done for my other children to control the diarrhea? Now I know what I can do.” Another woman, several months after installing and using a biosand filter in her home, happily reported: “Not a single one of my ten children has suffered diarrhea.”

JDA also teaches WASH education in elementary schools. Through puppet shows and fun, interactive play, thousands of children have learned that hand-washing can be an effective deterrent against disease from flies and bugs, and that ditch water can make them sick. Both men and women are engaged through well drilling and hand pump repair training, a critical component of keeping new wells functional long after installation. Often the men, who learn how to maintain and repair their village wells, end up training others. Behavioral change and transformation are possible even in the worst conditions. We have learned that people desire change when the change directly benefits their families. At JDA, we seek to highlight that connection and to engage in WASH solutions from a community-centered standpoint.

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Shalini Nataraj, director of advocacy and partnerships at Global Fund for Women. Shalini discusses why it is important to address human rights, specifically women’s rights, on the local level to determine context-specific and appropriate WASH solutions. She also highlights the work of three Global Fund grantees based in Vietnam and Kenya who serve as examples of organizations successfully tackling these issues. 

Participant at Global Fund convening in Kenya learning about indigenous plants and organic farming methods. Credit: Global Fund for Women / Margaret Youngs

Participant at Global Fund convening in Kenya learning about indigenous plants and organic farming methods. Credit: Global Fund for Women / Margaret Youngs

A well is a well, right? As a funder, you fund the digging of a well for a community that lacks access to clean water, and the hoped-for outcome is that the problem is now solved. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, it is not so simple. The well’s location might make women more vulnerable to sexual assault, for example. 

As a funder, Global Fund for Women supports organizations that seek to address access to water as a fundamental human rights issue. These organizations address the inequities, and ensure that the rights of the local women are respected.

In July 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council formally adopted a resolution calling on States and international organizations to provide financial resources, build capacity, and transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, and to provide safe, clean, accessible, and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. While this recognition of the human right to water is based on many legal principles, what does ensuring the right to water look like at the local level?

Unless those of us who fund WASH understand that access to water is fundamentally about power relations and systemic societal inequities, with national priorities often working in favor of the powerful and wealthy, funding access to clean water and sanitation is going to be piecemeal and unsustainable.

The first question that needs to be answered is, “Who benefits?” The answer is not simple. In answering that question, the conceptual framework of the human right to water can challenge the underlying structural inequalities plaguing the poor and powerless communities around the world who lack access to water. It offers these communities the tools and arguments to hold the State accountable for implementing its human rights obligations, and to demand that the basic needs of the communities are met over the wishes of the few who have the power and money. It is about funding a range of strategies and interventions that create the enabling context for sustainable WASH programs.

Global Fund prioritizes funding women-led organizations that not only seek to address the immediate needs of communities, but also advocate for the rights of communities. We enable women to access the training and tools to advocate on their own behalf.

Global Fund grantee, Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development (WARECOD), in Vietnam, operates projects to improve water access in several poor riverine communities. Using a holistic approach, it educates the public and the government on the social and environmental impacts of dams and the benefits of alternative methods of energy development.

Women and girls in remote and rural areas of Vietnam are excluded from the decision-making processes in local development projects, especially with regard to natural resource management. WARECOD is particularly focused on fishing villages along the Red River in northern Vietnam that provides water and nutrition to millions of people. WARECOD says that, “social customs and traditional responsibilities relegate fishing women to lower social levels than males, lower even than social levels of other women in rural areas.” In a world where the Food and Agriculture Organization states that women are most often the collectors, users, and managers of water in the household, as well as farmers of crops, WARECOD recognizes the need to ensure women are supported in their vital role in managing environmental resources. WARECOD’s water management projects are designed to increase the capacity and decision-making power of women in the community, and by transferring critical skills and knowledge in their water management program, WARECOD hopes to create a channel for women to exercise their participation and rights.

WARECOD operates several projects to supply local communities with access to clean water, help rebuild elementary schools, and aid farmers in obtaining advanced farming technology to increase their income. Staff are also gathering data on the livelihoods of fishing women and their access to clean water. WARECOD plans to use the research findings to support future advocacy work, so that it can use concrete data in pressuring local governments to improve the living conditions for women and girls in the area. The findings will also be documented and distributed to local authorities and agencies, and presented at conferences.

A long-time Global Fund grantee, Groups of Women in Water & Agricultural Kochieng (GWAKO), works in Kochieng, western Kenya, to improve women’s health, protect girls’ right to education, and boost women’s economic status. The overwhelming majority of Kenyans don’t have access to clean water. Girls’ participation in education is severely restricted because they must spend hours fetching water for their families. Water-related diseases continue to be among the four top causes of death among women on the African continent.

GWAKO activities have resulted in wells in rural communities where women previously traveled for three to six hours to fetch water. The organization also conducts community education about hygiene and sanitation, improves farming methods for women, and installs washing facilities and latrines in schools. It has grown into a consortium of forty-one women’s groups in more than fourteen villages. GWAKO has also improved women’s access to food by training the women in modern farming methods that produce higher yields. Such changes are critical in a region where severe poverty increasingly forces girls into transactional sex to obtain food.

Also based in Kenya, Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood (GROOTS), builds demonstration plots to train women in improved agricultural practices. GROOTS works with women farming groups to provide training on sustainable agricultural practices, such as greenhouse use. More importantly, GROOTS created watchdog committees to safeguard women’s property and advocate for land tenure, housing, property, and inheritance rights of women and children. GROOTS facilitates direct participation of grassroots women in various national, regional, and global conferences, creating a platform for women most impacted by development policies to be heard by decision-makers. Its efforts have resulted in increased women’s representation as village elders, provincial administrators, members of local development funds, and in the management of educational institutions.

These examples seek to illustrate Global Fund’s approach to funding WASH — one that acknowledges the realities in which communities operate — and to creating systemic change in order to ensure long-lasting solutions to WASH issues. Using women’s rights, especially the right to water, as a lens to fund WASH programs is a sustainable way to build just, equitable, and peaceful societies. 

Coca-Cola Commits $3.5 Million to United States Water Partnership

The Coca-Cola Company has announced a $3.5 million commitment to the United States Water Partnership, a public-private partnership launched on World Water Day 2012 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Announced at the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil, the partnership is designed to unite American expertise, knowledge, and resources and mobilize those assets to address global water challenges, with a focus on the developing world. Awarded through the company's Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), the funding will support water access programs in countries with the most significant needs, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Somaliland. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola will contribute $3 million toward a wide range of sustainable water access activities in those countries, including efforts to expand water access in informal urban settlements and in hospitals and promote multiple uses of water that empower women.

The remaining $500,000 will support USWP's efforts to transfer additional resources to African countries characterized as high-need in terms of access to clean water and sanitation. USWP also will make learnings from the RAIN initiative available to the global water sector.

"Access to safe water is essential for our company and our world," said Coca-Cola chief sustainability officer Bea Perez. "The sustainability of water resources is a top priority at the Coca-Cola Company. We are honored to support the USWP while being a catalyst for sustainable water access solutions in Africa."

Source: “The Coca-Cola Company Commits $3.5 Million to U.S. Water Partnership.” Coca-Cola Company Press Release 6/21/12.

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to announce that the blog will begin featuring regular guest contributions. Guest bloggers will include foundation and NGO leaders, consultants and researchers, as well as others working in the WASH sector who want to share their stories, strategies, and lessons learned. We encourage you to check back often or subscribe for e-mail updates.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day, this post reflects on and celebrates the role of women in the WASH crisis through photos. It is authored by Libby Plumb, senior communications advisor for WaterAid in America. She has worked for WaterAid for 13 years, undertaking a variety of roles for the UK and US offices and visiting many of WaterAid’s country programs over this time. Libby has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford.

Reflecting on International Women’s Day today, March 8th, prompts us to ask: to what extent is the global water and sanitation crisis a women’s issue? Women bear the brunt of water collection, suffer the most from lack of sanitation access and the resulting indignities, and, as primary caregivers, are impacted the most when children fall sick with water-related diseases. Fully involving women in community water and sanitation programs, as WaterAid does, ensures the programs meet their needs. It also helps equip women with the skills and confidence they need to tackle other development challenges in their communities.

Credit: WaterAid / Eva-Lotta Jansson

Credit: WaterAid / Eva-Lotta Jansson

The indignity of lacking somewhere private to go to the bathroom is particularly felt by women. In many cultures women have to wait until it is dark to relieve themselves, causing discomfort and sometimes illness. It can also expose women to the risk of both sexual harassment and animal attacks. In Sandimhia Renato’s village in Mozambique, women have to cross an unstable bridge to go to the toilet. Some have drowned crossing in the dark or at high tide.

Credit: WaterAid / Abir Abdullah

Credit: WaterAid / Abir Abdullah

The world’s poorest communities are generally male-dominated so extra effort has to be taken to ensure women are equally included in all stages of water and sanitation programs, including planning, construction, and decision-making. A lack of education for women in developing countries means that very few women can be decision-makers, yet enabling women’s voices to be heard is a crucial step in development. Above, women are pictured making latrine slabs for a WaterAid sanitation program in Bangladesh.

Credit: WaterAid / Jon Spaull

Credit: WaterAid / Jon Spaull

WaterAid helps to elevate women’s status in society by giving them positions of responsibility in the water committees established to manage the new water supplies. Zeinabu Kayisi, chairperson of a village water committee in the Salima District of Malawi, told us: “Being able to maintain the pump myself makes me feel independent and strong!’’

WaterAid / Libby Plumb

Credit: WaterAid / Libby Plumb

WaterAid often chooses women to become hygiene educators. Zubeyda Gudeta, pictured above helping women wash their hands before eating at a wedding reception, works as a hygiene promoter for WaterAid in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. She told us: “There has been a great change since the WaterAid project. Before this, some people didn’t wash their things like food containers. Now they wash their pots and plates three times. Now, people are healthier in this area than in other areas.”

WaterAid / Caroline Irby

Credit: WaterAid / Caroline Irby

A safe water source makes everyday household tasks much easier. More importantly, mothers and expectant mothers, like Sila Adeke from the Katakwi District of Uganda, no longer fear for the health of their children. “The borehole is much closer so I can fetch more water than before. Washing clothes is so easy now and I can use a whole jerry can for washing plates. The rate of illness is much lower. With this new source my child will grow up healthy and I am not concerned that it will grow sick.”

Credit: WaterAid / Jon Spaull

Credit: WaterAid / Jon Spaull

The privacy that comes with safe, clean bathrooms is especially important for women with disabilities for whom leaving the house is more challenging. Suffering from impaired vision, Rukhmani Devi from India is pleased her family now has a private latrine: “When I had my eye operation [for cataracts], I realized just how convenient having a latrine is, as before I would have had to go to the fields. Life is good now, as before people would be able to see us using the fields and we weren’t able to relax—instead we were always alert and worried.”

Credit: WaterAid / Suzanne Porter

Credit: WaterAid / Susan Porter

When women are freed from having to spend hours each day collecting water, they have more time available for other activities that can help them to escape poverty. Mary Chukle from Takkas in Nigeria credits the new water supply with enabling her to open a business: “Before we got the well, we had to trek down to the river with the children and it took up to two hours. Because of the time I save now from getting water the old way, I was able to work more and apply for a loan to buy a small village shop which I now run.”

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