WaterAid at the 2015 WEDC conference

The WEDC International Conference brought together practitioners, decision makers, academics and researchers who lead on water and sanitation innovation in developing countries. Louisa Gosling, WaterAid’s Programme Manager – Principles, recounts the strong contribution made by WaterAid during a week of discussing and sharing knowledge.


24 Aug 2015

WaterAid had a great presence at July’s WEDC conference in Loughborough, UK, including colleagues from Bangladesh, India, Australia, the UK and Uganda and a representative of DAPP, one of our partner organisations from Zambia. We presented several workshops and papers, exchanging experiences and lessons with other participants.

Making services inclusive

Poppy outside an accessible latrine, which she is the caretaker of

We kicked off the conference by co-hosting with WEDC a capacity development day on how to make WASH services inclusive. We covered WASH and disability, issues of gender and safety (based on the Violence, gender and WASH toolkit developed through the SHARE research consortium) and menstrual hygiene management (MHM) based on the training guide Menstrual hygiene matters produced by SHARE and WaterAid.

“The training pack is excellent – it’s so clear and easy for anyone to pick up and use,” said Jane Wilbur, WaterAid’s Equity, Inclusion and Rights Advisor, who ran the MHM day. “I’d really recommend running MHM training using this.”

On Tuesday, Jane also presented the Frontiers document on how to ensure Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) includes people with disabilities. Andrés Hueso of WaterAid UK presented our post-implementation monitoring surveys assessing the sustainability and functionality of toilets in Open Defecation-Free (ODF) communities. This was followed by a rich discussion about these issues in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and drivers for ODF communities.

Reaching everyone everywhere

Lilly Munkombwe from DAPP presented a paper about the Undoing inequity project in Uganda and Zambia. Our research showed that between 73% and 100% of the households continuing to defecate in the open included a disabled, older or chronically ill person. These data showed the importance of inclusiveness in CLTS approaches if we are to reach everyone everywhere by 2030.

Shamim Ahmed from WaterAid Bangladesh presented the impact of an accessibility audit by a disabled persons’ organisation in Dhaka. The audit showed that the inaccessibility of public buildings made it almost impossible for them to physically reach decision makers in order to influence them. The organisation has used this evidence to support advocacy to improve accessibility.

Rémi Kaupp represented WaterAid UK during a panel discussion (supported by the Stone Foundation) about the lessons from WaterAid's, WSUP's and Water for People's pit-emptying work. The panel reviewed how they have tackled the many challenges of developing viable local businesses around faecal sludge management.

Menstrual hygiene strikes a chord

Menstrual Hygiene Management training with WaterAid for boys and girls (class five) in Tsimahavaobe School. Morondava commune, Menabe region, Madagascar. May 2015

Among the range of topics covered by WaterAid presenters (see full resources list opposite), Shahrukh Mirza from WaterAid Bangladesh and Divya Chadha from WaterAid India both presented papers on MHM.

“People were particularly interested in our MHM sessions, and wanted to find out more about how we engage both local communities and top-level policy makers in MHM issues”, said Shahrukh. “It made me feel proud of how we as an organisation contribute to innovation in the sector.”

“Interaction with WEDC academics and PhD students was great – some of their ideas were so striking!” said Divya, recalling her discussion with a PhD student and an academic about their taking menopause and its associated WASH problems as a thesis topic.

Human rights to water and sanitation

We also shared our emerging understanding and experience of the human rights to water and sanitation. We presented two papers on the rights implications of WASH in India and ran a workshop on human rights with WASH United and the Institute of Sustainable Futures in Sydney. The workshop focused on the language of rights and how legal frameworks can help ensure access for the most marginalised. This was based on the Handbook of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Water and Sanitation

It was fantastic to hear that our research had an impact on Robert Chambers, the renowned development practitioner. In the closing plenary session he said that his main takeaway was that many of those still defecating in the open are households with vulnerable members. For him, this reinforced the SDGs’ drive to eliminate inequalities.

Having learned so much during this year’s lively and innovative event, we are looking forward to the 2016 WEDC Conference in Ghana.

Louisa Gosling is WaterAid’s Programme Manager – Principles. She tweets as @louisagosling1 and you can read more of her blogs here.

For global policy, practice and advocacy updates and discussion, follow @wateraid on Twitter.