WaterAid publishes statement of intent to empower people who are LGBTIQ+ and with diverse SOGIESC

3 min read
A well surrounded by colourful buckets
Image: WaterAid/Dennis Lupenga

An important note on language:

We acknowledge the importance of language to be empowering and respectful. In Australia, we mostly use the term ‘LGBTIQ+’. LGBTIQ+ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer and Questioning. The plus aims to include people whose identity is not represented in the LGBTIQ acronym.

WaterAid also uses the term ‘diverse SOGIESC’ to describe people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics. As an International organisation, we recognise this is an inclusive term, which is not limited to cultures or places. It aligns with anti-discrimination land human rights law. We value local knowledge and the importance of rights-based terminology in fostering an empowering environment.

To commemorate this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) WaterAid Australia are releasing a statement of intent to commit to being a safe and empowering organisation which works to uphold the rights of people with diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC). This organisation-wide commitment was inspired by the work of our team in Timor-Leste.

In 2019 it became clear to the WaterAid team that our efforts to build more inclusive WASH systems in Timor-Leste were not reaching people with diverse SOGIESC. The pride movement in Timor-Leste was gaining momentum, and discrimination experienced by people of diverse SOGIESC was becoming more visible. In Timor-Leste there are limited support mechanisms, information and awareness for people with diverse SOGIESC.

Water and sanitation is a basic human right for everyone, and WaterAid did not yet have a good understanding of the unique WASH challenges experienced by people with diverse SOGIESC in Timor-Leste. For example, trans people experiencing abuse when using sex-segregated public toilet facilities.

WaterAid led a consultation with diverse SOGEISC rights groups in 2019 to begin to better understand their WASH-related challenges and identify safe and appropriate opportunities to collaborate. The consultation ended with two clear recommendation:

1. To build organisational-level awareness and understanding

2. Build closer collaboration with diverse SOGESIC rights groups.

Since then, WaterAid has gone through a series of learning and collaboration steps as part of our Water for Women funded program. The team has connected with one local rights group, CODIVA, and invited them to join WASH sector meetings, together with CARE Timor-Leste. WaterAid also established a partnership with Edge Effect to design and lead learning activities to build staff and partners awareness, knowledge and skills.

Our work in Timor-Leste’s is what inspired WaterAid to develop this statement of intent. It showed us that we needed to take more deliberate action and be accountable to the rights of people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identities and sex characteristics, not only through our programs, but as a place to work.

WaterAid's vision is a world where everyone, everywhere has safe water, sanitation and hygiene. We recognise that people with diverse SOGIESC often experience discrimination, exclusion and human rights violations in their daily lives. With this statement we intend to demonstrate our commitment to transform the lives of people experiencing marginalisation, and protect their human rights to WASH.

The team at WaterAid Australia and across the region collectively developed this Statement. Through a series of learning across teams and countries, Lana Woolf from Edge Effect facilitated workshops and discussions in an inclusive and transformative way to guide us towards developing an organisation position statement. We explored our organisational values, and how each of these relate to being an inclusive organisation for people with diverse SOGIESC.

We recognise that in order to successfully incorporate strategies for people of diverse SOGIESC in our WASH programs and goals, we also need to stand as an inclusive and supportive workplace for people in these communities. We strive to do this throughout our organisation, in every sense, and this statement of intent acts as a commitment to that.