Inclusivity and WASH

‘Progress made in the water and sanitation sector does not always benefit those who are most in need of these services, in particular the poorest, people living in informal settlements and/or people marginalised on the basis of gender and other grounds’.

UN Water. 2013. Eliminating Discrimination and Inequalities in Access to Water and Sanitation. UN Report. p7.

Working with everyone in the local community

Tearfund works with everyone in the local community – men, women and children, to make sure they have equal access to suitable, secure and sustainable water and sanitation services. Often greater support is needed for people who are vulnerable, marginalised or discriminated against to ensure their rights and needs are equally recognised. This can mean working with local government to help them to address taboo issues like gender-based violence. 

Even where there are WASH services, certain people are more likely to be excluded from accessing these, due to their vulnerability, marginalisation or active discrimination. In almost all societies, this includes women and children, people living with disabilities and chronic illness, people with certain gender identities, people who belong to specific ethnic groups, religions and castes, people who have been displaced and those living in remote areas. These groups often experience limited opportunities, limited choices and limited freedoms, which makes them more vulnerable to poverty. 

Evidence suggests that disadvantaged and marginalised groups are least able to provide sustainable WASH facilities for themselves and they are often excluded from relief and rehabilitation processes (Myers et al., 2017).

Sustainable Development Goals

Eliminating discrimination and inequality is essential to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and its agenda for universality. Goal 6 focuses specifically on water and sanitation for all: 

6.1 By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all 

6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations 

Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development (PDF 369 KB)

Water, sanitation and hygiene ladders

The SDG are a global commitment to supporting progress towards inclusive and equitable access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene by identifying and tackling barriers to each step. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) has introduced the idea of the water, sanitation and hygiene ladders that distinguish between varying levels of access, the quality of services and the benefits gained from each step. The SDG commit us all to leave no one behind as households move up the rungs of these ladders towards basic hygiene, adequate sanitation and safely managed and affordable drinking water.

Making progress

Realising the rights of all to WASH will require us to target the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups as well as tackling many neglected issues such as gender-based violence and land tenure insecurity. Reserving spaces for women on water and sanitation user committees and facilitating citizen monitoring so that groups can promote their needs, are all part of an inclusive and transformative approach. 

Addressing power inequalities will be key through greater capacity building at every level and effective cooperation between states and civil society, as will strengthening national strategies and guidelines on equity and inclusion. Where necessary, specific community support mechanisms may need to be introduced during WASH interventions to help those who are most in need to climb the water, sanitation and hygiene ladders. These include micro-finance, voucher systems, community rewards and cash rebates. 

Progress on Drinking water, Sanitation and Hygiene (PDF 6.9 MB)

Read the latest research on community support mechanisms from the CLTS Knowledge Hub