Water for Women

Women crossing a bamboo bridge while carrying water in MyanmarWaterAid/Htoo Tay Zar

The effects of a lack of clean water and decent toilets are felt most by women and girls. They experience this in a number of ways, whether that be walking long distances to collect water, facing the danger and indignity of finding a place to defecate when they don’t have a private toilet, or being excluded from decisions about services. Meaningful participation from women and girls is key to delivering water and sanitation services that meet their needs, as well as changing harmful norms that see them marginalised.

Running until the end of 2022, Water for Women is a five-year Australian Government program that aims to improve health, gender equality and well-being in the Asia-Pacific through inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene projects. WaterAid is being funded to deliver projects in Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.

Menstrual hygiene and reproductive health

Women attaching buttons to reusable sanitary padsWaterAid

Access to a good quality education is critical for helping children to build a brighter future for themselves, their families and their communities. However, many girls in our region face challenges in managing their reproductive and menstrual health, which can cause them to miss school or drop out entirely.

To tackle this and help keep girls in school, we’ve partnered with Marie Stopes International Australia. In Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, we’re providing sexual and reproductive health services and menstrual health education to adolescent girls and boys, and adult community members. We’re upgrading school toilets to better accommodate girls' needs, and supporting women-led business to manufacture feminine hygiene products, so that affordable pads and other products are more readily available.

Sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (SusWASH)

Lady holding a happy baby with a cup of waterWaterAid/Tom Greenwood

At WaterAid we support direct provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services to demonstrate good practice. But crucially, we also strengthen the broader systems within which these services function.

The sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene programme (SusWASH) program, funded by the H&M Foundation and running across four countries, is doing exactly this. In Cambodia, we’re working predominantly with local-level governments, supporting them to fulfil their responsibilities for water and sanitation service provision. Together with district and provincial officials we’re working to address gaps in key areas such as coordination, planning, monitoring and budgeting.

Outside of this, we’re working with health care centres to upgrade their water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. We’re also working directly with marginalised groups to identify barriers they face in accessing water, sanitation and hygiene and to share these experiences with the parties responsible for providing services.

And at the national level, we’re supporting a review of the Ministry of Rural Development’s National Action Plan for Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene to ensure that the local-level improvements we’re involved in are rolled out nationwide.

Sports for development

Netballer in Papua New GuineaWaterAid/Tom Greenwood

The popularity of sport makes it a powerful tool to make change happen. We’re using this popularity to reach people improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene in Papua New Guinea.

At the grassroots, we’re working with young netballers to build leadership skills, provide hygiene education and make them aware of their rights to clean water and decent toilets. We’re also engaging government to ensure that all sporting facilities have clean water and toilets in place. Finally, we’re partnering with sports federations, asking them to use their influence to advocate for clean water and toilets for their players, coaches and officials.