How our work promotes gender equality

2 min read
Juliana is the secretary of the water committee in her village in Manufahi District in Timor-Leste.
Image: WaterAid/Tom Greenwood

Across our work, we’re focused on leveraging water, sanitation and hygiene programs as a platform to empower women and girls and help achieve gender equality.

In Cambodia, part of our strategy is to build a workforce of skilled, inspired professionals to deliver and sustain water, sanitation and hygiene services. However, when looking at opportunities for women in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, we found that they face significant barriers at all stages of their career. Women already working in the field faced negative attitudes, and were not perceived as leaders or technical experts. Young women had difficulty gaining admission to water or sanitation-related higher degree courses, or if they were admitted, finding work upon graduation.

To combat this, we’re focusing on study, career and leadership opportunities for women among the next generation of young professionals. We’re supporting the Centre for Sustainable Water and the WASH Skills Development Organisation to provide ongoing training for people in their job, skills development for professionals and organisations, and mentoring. For students studying in water, sanitation and hygiene-related fields, we’re supporting work experience, networking and learning opportunities, with a strong focus on women’s leadership. In Timor-Leste we’re partnering with Engineers Without Borders to support a professional network of women engineers, who meet regularly to provide mentoring, technical training and networking opportunities.

In Timor-Leste, our focus has been on delivering practical activities and facilitating conversations between women and men on sharing community and household work more equally, as part of water and sanitation programs. We’ve distilled these lessons into our community dialogue manual, a toolkit to guide Timorese community facilitators to lead practical activities to realise positive change towards gender equality. As community member Laranjeira said: “I am amazed with my husband after (gender) sessions that talked about equal work between men and women. It’s not dramatic change yet, but on many occasions, he starts to ask me what (house) work I’m doing and without talking much he starts taking on one or two responsibilities. He is also looking after our children more often.”

We’re now working to roll out this manual more broadly, collaborating with the Timor-Leste Government and others to deliver facilitation training about gender, based on experience developing the manual, while also supporting the water, sanitation and hygiene sector to better address gender through delivery and monitoring of services.

Going forward we’ll continue to use our activities in this way, ensuring that as women and girls realise their right to clean water and decent toilets, we’re also leveraging our programs to challenge norms and change attitudes to achieve gender equality.


This article is an excerpt from our Annual Report 2017/18. You can download the full document here