Water and sanitation key to tackling violence against women and girls

The UK Department for International Development is to include water and sanitation in its programme guidelines to address gender-based violence.


31 Jan 2014

Earlier this year, WaterAid presented evidence to an International Development Select Committee inquiry, demonstrating that women and girls face an increased risk of violence when they have to walk long distances to collect water or when they do not have a toilet to provide them with privacy, security and dignity.

We recommended issuing specific guidelines to programmes in health, education and water and sanitation on how to address violence against women and girls. We are delighted to see that both the government and committee have embraced our recommendations.

In a House of Commons debate on 24 Jan, Chair of the International Development Committee, Malcolm Bruce, said:

“We had a specific concern with water and sanitation, which I accept that the government acknowledged immediately, because there was no particular focus on violence against women and girls. Everyone knows that this is a prime example of where women and girls are especially vulnerable, either when they are going to collect water or are using sanitary facilities – they become vulnerable to attack.”

Lynne Featherstone, Undersecretary of International Development, said DFID has produced a new briefing note on violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies.

WaterAid is also working with the SHARE consortium on a violence, gender and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) toolkit which will be available later this year.

Louisa Gosling, Programme Manager – Principles at WaterAid, said: “We are glad to see Government recognition of the important role that access to safe water and toilets plays in prevention of harassment and violence against women and girls.

“One in three women around the world does not have access to decent toilets, and half a billion women and girls risk their safety by having to relieve themselves in the open. We need to do more to change this.”

Since 2012, WaterAid has highlighted the increased risks of violence that women and girls face if they do not have safe sanitation.

Read our We Can’t Wait report >

Read our 1 in 3 briefing >