Gender & Water and Sanitation Projects

Water and sanitation projects that take gender differences into account can play a significant role in improving the health, education, social, economic, and overall well-being of women and girls and their communities. In many cultures women and girls bear, for example, the primary responsibility for collecting water for food preparation, drinking, bathing, washing and are the main caregivers for children, sick and elderly family members. Improved access to clean water and sanitation facilities located at a convenient distance from home can play an important role for the quality of life and safety of women and children and other vulnerable community members. Gender-responsive water and sanitation projects can also promote economic empowerment since they allow in particular women and girls to use time saved for more productive activities that can lead to increased financial independence.

Integrating Gender Across the PPP Project Cycle

Multinational Development Banks (MDBs) as well as bilateral and national development banks and many other leading development organizations have a growing commitment to finance and support infrastructure projects and programs that incorporate gender considerations. They have developed a number of guidelines, practical tools, policies, and manuals that are based on best practice and aim to facilitate a gender-inclusive approach. Key recommendations for integrating gender considerations in infrastructure projects and programs are the following:

1. Analyze gender aspects during the preparation and appraisal stage, e.g. by collecting sex-disaggregated data, including women and men at an early stage in the community-wide consultations and by incorporating gender aspects into the various analyses and assessments;

2. Translate the results into the design of projects and programs, e.g. by designing gender-responsive policies, bidding documents and contracts;

3. Utilize meaningful performance indicators to monitor and evaluate actions designed to narrow gender gaps.

Following this approach gender commitments are increasingly integrated into PPP Legal and Regulatory Frameworks as well as across the PPP project cycle of individual PPP projects. Read more.

Key Topics Across Infrastructure Sectors

Click here to find out more about:

  • Strengthen Engagement of Women in PPPs
  • Target Women as Consumers, Beneficiaries, and Users of Services,
  • Improve Safety and Prevent Gender-Based Violence
  • Integrate Women-Owned Businesses in the Supply Chain
  • Promote Female Employment and Corporate Leadership

Sector-Specific Legislation, Policies, Guidelines, Strategies


Water and Sanitation Gender Strategy (2018 - 2022), Government of Uganda, Ministry of Water and Environment. The revised Water and Sanitation Gender Strategy of Uganda re-echoes the water and environment sector's commitment towards the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment in the country.

Sector-Specific Gender Tools

The extent to and way in which gender could be mainstreamed into the design and implementation of an infrastructure project depend at least to some degree on the specific infrastructure sector. Listed below are guidance materials, toolkits and strategy papers that were developed by international organizations, national governments and non-government organizations to mainstream gender into water and sanitation projects:

  • Toolkit for Mainstreaming Gender into Water Projects, WBG 2016 - This toolkit aims to provide task teams with guidance to improve gender mainstreaming in project design, implementation, and evaluation.

  • Making Water Supply and Sanitation Work for Women and Men: Tools for Task Teams, World Bank December 2010 - The primary objective of this publication is to provide brief, relevant, and practical tools for World Bank task teams and their country counterparts to facilitate their work in addressing gender and other related social issues in water supply and sanitation (WSS) policies and projects. The term “tool” was selected to convey the notion that these materials are nuts and bolts resources to be used when needed, and to emphasize that they are not requirements or directives.

  • Gender Impacts of GPOBA Pilot Projects, Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) June 2011 - This note presents a summary of the expected gender impacts of output-based aid (OBA) projects by sector (water and sanitation, energy, health, information and communication technology (ICT), an overview of how gender impacts are estimated in the ongoing impact evaluations, and a list of the gender outcomes and impacts that are explicitly acknowledged in other OBA pilot projects.

  • Checklist for Gender Mainstreaming in the Water and Sanitation Sector, The African Development Bank (AfDB), September 2009 - This checklist is intended to provide a tool for effective gender mainstreaming for drinking water supply and sanitation programs and projects, with a view to: (i) guiding project managers and implementation teams in identifying, preparing, appraising, implementing, monitoring and evaluating gender-sensitive programs and projects; and (ii) supporting member countries in analyzing and implementing the activities of programs and projects financed by the African Development Bank.

  • Gender and Water - Securing Water for Improved Rural Livelihoods: The Multiple-Uses System Approach, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) 2007 - This review examines the impact of water-related projects on women, women’s role in managing water resources and the constraints women face in gaining access to water. It presents lessons learned in promoting women’s participation in decision-making for water management using experiences from several IFAD-supported water programs and projects. It highlights the innovative activities and catalysts that have helped to address gender issues in water programs and projects. It also offers recommendations on how to improve women’s access to water resources through equitable development and gender mainstreaming.
  • Wash Post-2015 - Proposed Indicators for Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), briefing note developed by the World Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) summarizes proposed indicators for monitoring WASH elements of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. It reflects extensive technical consultation with over 100 experts from over 60 organizations and pays special attention to the needs of women and girls.

Sector-Specific Case Studies and Project Documents

  • Lao PDR - Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric power project: The project is governed by a concession agreement that sets out, among other things, social safeguards to mitigate the potential negative social impacts of the project including gender-specific actions to guarantee increased gender equity and expanded opportunities for women and girls, e.g. land titles are issued jointly to husband and wife (Concession Agreement Schedule 4, Part 1, Social and Resettlement Component draft Social Development Plan of November 2004). See also summary of the concession agreement.
  • Gender Action Plans (GAPs) in ADB Projects, online resource provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) - Project Documents Water.
  • PPP in Watershed Management - Does Watershed Development Implemented through Public Private Partnership Empower Women? A Case Review from Rajasthan, Western India, Journal of Cleaner Production, 2013 (fee for purchase) - This paper critically examines the impact of the ‘Guidelines for Hariyali’ – a rural watershed development policy launched in Rajasthan, Western India which has been implemented through a public-private partnership (PPP) for local communities.
  • Water, Gender and Citizenship - Involving men and women in the management of water and sanitation services, Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), Latin America and the Caribbean, World Bank, 2007 - This document is based on the experience of the Small Town Pilot Project in Peru (STPP) in promoting inclusive citizen participation, involving both men and women, in decisions on the management of water and sanitation services in localities having between 2,000 and 30,000 inhabitants. The new model proposes an alliance between the municipality, a private operator and an overseeing neighborhood community board. A gender component assessed and deployed appropriate communication channels between males, females, the operator and the municipality. It also established a quota of 50% men and 50% women on the neighborhood community boards, institutionalized by a municipal order, and facilitated tariff setting through separate male and female consultations, arriving at a social agreement with the municipality and reconciling differing priorities. The project demonstrates how investing in communication and participatory approaches can facilitate gender mainstreaming and improve service delivery.
  • Water, Sanitation and Gender, Gender and Development Briefing Notes, Gender and Development Group, The World Bank, March 2007 - The publication explores why gender issues are important in the water and sanitation sector, how the World Bank is integrating gender in water supply and sanitation (WSS) activities and gives three examples of innovative approaches to integrate gender. One example shows how the private sector engaged women to make bricks for latrines in South Africa.
  • Social Republic of Vietnam - Project Appraisal Document (PAD), Red River Delta Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Social Republic of Vietnam, 2005 - This project appraisal document provides for partnership and coordination between the various government agencies that are involved on the provincial and local level and the Women's Unions. One of its implementation covenants refers to the obligation of the Provincial People Committees to enter into arrangements with the Women’s Unions to establish and operate Household Water and Sanitation Revolving Funds at the provincial level.


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Updated: April 25, 2024

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