Not having clean water and toilets leaves women and girls disadvantaged and marginalised, says WaterAid

Posted by
Anna France Williams
3 June 2019
Girls and women
WaterAid/ Sam Vox

WaterAid is calling on governments to tackle gender inequality by ensuring all women and girls have access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene (WASH).

Currently one in three women and girls live without a decent toilet and it is estimated that 335 million girls go to school without water and soap available for washing their hands when changing sanitary pads. Across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America many girls report feeling fear, shame and embarrassment due to the lack of information, support and facilities to manage their menstruation in school.[i]

At the largest global event on gender equality, Women Deliver, held in Vancouver, Canada, WaterAid and partners are launching a new report, ‘A shared agenda: Exploring the links between water, sanitation, hygiene and sexual and reproductive health and rights in sustainable development’. The paper draws attention to how this lack of access to WASH undermines the already disproportionate challenges faced by women and girls to realise their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

In the report, WaterAid highlights how improving access to WASH is vital in realising women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The international organisation is calling on governments to integrate national SRHR and WASH policies and guidelines and to incorporate minimum standards so that women and girls can thrive and gender inequality reduces.

During Women Deliver, which begins on 3 June, WaterAid will highlight the ways in which lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene compromises the health and rights of women and girls. One in six health care facilities globally do not have a place to wash hands with soap and water. Unhygienic conditions in healthcare facilities leaves women and newborns susceptible to fatal infections and, without decent toilets, women and girls are unable to manage their menstrual period privately and hygienically.

Mariame Dem, WaterAid Regional Director for West Africa said:

“Women’s and girls’ autonomy, dignity and equality will not be realised without access to clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene. WaterAid is calling on governments, the corporate sector, and civil society to prioritise making these accessible to all women and girls, no matter where they live.

“A promise was made to the world’s population under Sustainable Development Goal 6 that everyone, everywhere would have clean water and toilets by 2030. We need everyone, especially governments, to step up and take action now so that this goal can be reached.”

WaterAid representatives will be pushing for action at Women Deliver this week through a number of events including:

  • Interactive panel discussion: WASH, Gender, and Power: Realizing Women’s and Girls’ Health and Rights through Access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene - panel including Mercy Masoo, Country Director, WaterAid Malawi and Joshua Briemberg, WaterAid Regional Director for Latin America
  • Power Stage talk: Advocating for Change: Providing Tax-Free Sanitary Towels in Tanzania - Jane Sembuche Mselle, Country Director, WaterAid Uganda
  • Concurrent session: Energy and Water: Essential Ingredients for Women's Equality and Achieving the SDGs - WaterAid and Sustainable Energy for All


Read the report:

For the full programme of WaterAid events at Women Deliver:

For more information on our programme of events or to arrange an interview, please contact:

In Canada at the Women Deliver conference:

Anna France-Williams, Senior Media Officer, [email protected], +44 7785 725387 or +44 (0) 207 793 5048

Aneesha Hampton, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +1 (613) 230-5182 or +1 514 571 7923

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected]

In the US: Emily Haile, Senior Communications and Media Manager, [email protected]

In Delhi: Pragya Gupta, Media and Communications Coordinator, [email protected]

In Melbourne: Kevin Hawkins, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +61 3 9001 8248

In Stockholm: Magdalena Olsson, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 33 or +46 (0)73 661 93 31, or Petter Gustafsson, Communications Officer, on [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 21 or +46 (0)72 858 58 51

Notes to editor

Women Deliver, Vancouver

Women Deliver is the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women.

A shared agenda: Exploring the links between water, sanitation, hygiene and sexual and reproductive health and rights in sustainable development

The development of this paper was led by WaterAid and was co-authored by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), Simavi and Marie Stopes International (MSI).


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 34 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @wateraid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at

844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]
2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]
Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]
Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]
Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]
To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database 

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines


[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage