Editor's Note: How can we assess the impact of a WASH investment? In this post, Guy Norman, Head of Evaluation, Research and Learning at Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), gives us a snapshot of the findings from their recent pilot analysis of the impact of WSUP’s work in Madagascar.
Providing improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to a community doesn’t just have an impact on health, it can be expected to have multiple positive impacts, including creation of livelihoods. For a slum-dweller, employment and a steady income are life-changing things! And jobs created are likely to have a ripple effect in the local economy—more jobs mean more money circulating around the community.
But assessing the total impacts of a WASH investment by an organisation like Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) is far from straightforward. For example, we would expect an improved water supply to have positive impacts on a wide range of things including health, livelihoods, time required to collect water, local environmental quality, the water utility’s revenues, and indeed the national economy. What’s more, a given investment may also have negative impacts; for example, an improved water kiosk may reduce the profits of an existing water supplier. So any assessment of total impact needs to consider a wide range of potential impacts, and needs to “subtract” possible negative impacts from the positive impacts.
Moving towards achieving this, WSUP has recently contracted PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to pilot their Total Impact Measurement and Management (TIMM) framework in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. TIMM is a framework for doing precisely this type of analysis.
More detailed findings of this pilot analysis will be published soon, and this blog gives a “sneak peek” at findings around the impact of WSUP’s work in Antananarivo on employment.
The Antananarivo pilot of the TIMM approach
The pilot focused on a subset of WSUP’s activities in Antananarivo over the period 2012−2015:
1. Water kiosks and laundry blocks: support for construction, including creation of management arrangements;
2. Setting up small community-based organisations (known as RF2s) for street cleaning and drain clearance;
3. Helping the water utility (JIRAMA) reduce its levels of non-revenue water (NRW) (i.e. water for which no payment is received, either because it physically leaks from pipes or because it’s supplied but not paid for, as a result of inefficient billing for example)
Very briefly, the TIMM approach, as applied here, involved first generating a model of the impact pathways. This included many boxes and arrows (WSUP investments in boxes on the left, outcomes in boxes on the right, many intermediate boxes in the middle, and lots of “causality” arrows linking everything together). Data to “calculate” the model comprised existing WSUP data on project outcomes, including householder survey data, some limited additional data collection, and international data derived from a literature review.
The estimated net impacts of WSUP’s investments in the three activities indicated above are shown in the wheel schematic below. Each impact has been converted to a monetised value, but this in no sense implies that people’s lives are just about profit and loss! Rather, an analysis of this type requires a common unit of measurement of different types of impact, and a convenient unit is U.S. dollars. Note the dramatic health impacts (interesting, because previous analyses of this type have often suggested that WASH interventions have more of an impact on time savings than they do on health). Note also some negative impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (garbage rotting on the streets produces less methane than garbage in a landfill). But as noted at the end of this blog, we ask you to take these results as preliminary; these findings may be a good indication of reality, but PwC, WSUP and others are still assessing to what extent we can consider these results to be accurate.
Job creation findings
WSUP-supported water kiosks and laundry blocks need builders to construct them and attendants to staff them; both also provide self-employment opportunities for laundry washers (almost exclusively women). The TIMM analysis indicated that kiosks and laundry blocks not only generate direct employment, but also create work opportunities for suppliers; much of this money is then spent in the local community on goods and services, supporting more jobs. The construction sector gets a demand boost, and the new connections between kiosks and the water network also increases profits and wages for those working at the water utility. Water resellers, who buy water in bulk from WSUP’s kiosks and then sell it door-to-door at a mark-up, are estimated to now have an annual income of around 300,000-480,000 Malagasy ariary.
RF2 teams sweep the streets and empty bins, and each team employs around eight people. These are self-sustaining organisations financed by user tariffs and local government support. The RF2 impact on livelihoods is estimated at almost US $1.5 million, and the spending of those wages generates an additional US $0.4 million of indirect economic benefit.
In order to help the water utility to reduce its level of non-revenue water, WSUP provided the initial funds for a team dedicated to NRW reduction and technical training. Not only did this create jobs within the utility, but the wages that they were paid are projected to have had wider economic effects within the city. WSUP’s work with the water utility led to an estimated increase in profits and wages of US $2 million, with wider economic benefits totalling approximately US $157,000.
The TIMM results show that livelihood impacts make up more than 13% of the total net impact of the WSUP projects analysed. This should have long-term positive effects; the total livelihoods impact for women and men across all interventions from 2013 to 2025 is worth approximately US $3.6 million and US $2.3 million, respectively. Laundry workers (who are 95% female) are the highest earners, and are projected to generate US $2.8 million in additional earnings by 2025.
Particular impacts on women’s livelihoods
Madagascar ranks somewhere in the middle of the global Social Institutions & Gender Index, and while women make up nearly half of the work force they are paid less and hold a lower proportion of skilled and managerial jobs compared to men.
This TIMM analysis indicates that about 70% of the total earnings from WSUP water kiosks and laundry blocks go to women. Each laundry washer earns an estimated 8,000 Malagasy ariary per day (around $490 per year), which is about three times more than before the laundry blocks were built. More earnings for women is socially relevant as women are more likely to invest their earnings in education, nutrition, and health than men.
And finally, a cautionary note
This has been a pilot application of the TIMM approach, based on careful analysis of likely impact pathways, careful collation of relevant data, and reasoned assumptions about likely magnitudes of effect along each of the impact pathways that we examined. But this is complex modelling, the input data is certainly not perfect, and the assumptions about magnitudes of effect are just that, best-estimate assumptions. Modelling of this type can generate very useful information for an organisation like WSUP, but at this stage the jury is still out on whether the current results are sufficiently reliable, and whether the data collection requirements for this type of analysis are manageable. We’ll be releasing more detailed publications soon, so if you’re interested please watch out for them.
Thanks to the PwC team led by Tom Beagent for this excellent work and to WSUP’s Rosie Renouf for help with the analysis underlying this blog, as well as to WSUP’s supporters DFID, TCCAF, and the Stone Family Foundation for their role in this project.
March 8 marks International Women's Day (IWD), a day that, for those of us working in the WASH sector, lends a chance to highlight the role women play in global water and sanitation issues. As Libby Plumb noted in her IWD 2012 post, "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."
This year, we're looking back at some of our favorite WASH resources focused on women and girls. For more information about International Women's Day and related resources and events, go to internationalwomensday.com. If you're on Twitter, be sure to follow #IWD2016 for news and updates throughout the day.
This report is a collection of evidence, brief examples highlighting the effect and benefits of placing women at the core of planning, implementation and operations of WASH programs. The experiences also show how women's empowerment and the improvement of water supply, sanitation facilities and hygiene practice are inextricably linked.
From childbirth to education to domestic responsibilities to dignity and safety, access to water and sanitation affect women and girls more than men and boys. This report details recommendations for policy and global practice that will empower women and water-related projects.
This policy brief aims to provide guidance on non-discrimination and equality in the context of access to drinking water and sanitation, with a particular focus on women and girls. It also informs readers on the duty of States and responsibilities of non-State actors.
Menstruation is a natural and routine part of life for healthy girls and women, but in many parts of the world, it is accompanied by shame and fear. Cultural taboos about menstruation and perceptions that women are unclean when they have their periods are barriers to open discussion and societal support. Without education from parents and teachers, girls often begin menarche in isolation, without any understanding of what is happening to their bodies. Fortunately, there is a growing global movement to address these gaps. With increased support, these efforts have the potential to unlock tremendous health and opportunity for girls, women, and communities around the globe.
This report looks at water through the eyes of women, exploring the impacts and potential solutions that enable women to reclaim their time, as well as the roles that water can play in improving women's lives.
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: email@example.com.
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, Tanzania – Hedhi 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, UK – Talk.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.
“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 WaterAid, Water 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 - https://dri-water.charity.org/
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 Water.org 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 Water.org 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.
"Water.org’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 Water.org, 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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.