As we prepare to celebrate the 113th International Women’s Day 2023 on the 8th of March, now is an opportune time to reflect on the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in WASH. Women have historically been the most vulnerable to inadequate access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities and services. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women worldwide lack access to safe and adequate sanitation facilities, and women and girls spend an average of 6 months of their lives collecting water.
In Nepal, women are particularly affected by inadequate WASH facilities and services. In many rural communities, women are responsible for collecting water, and the lack of safe and adequate facilities means they are at increased risk of harassment, assault, and violence. Moreover, menstruating women and girls face numerous challenges due to the lack of appropriate facilities, including inadequate menstrual hygiene management.
An important and often overlooked issue, is the specific knowledge, skills and resources that communities (and local governments as well as WASH projects!) are missing, due to women, and especially caretakers and women and girls with disabilities, not being involved in WASH decision making.
The Sustainable Water and Sanitation for All (SUSWA) project recognizes the importance of addressing these gendered challenges in Nepal. SUSWA is committed to promoting gender equity and women’s empowerment throughout the project, in the design, implementation, and monitoring of its activities. A cross-cutting objective of SUSWA is to improve access to safe water and sanitation facilities and services for women and girls, also those with disabilities, in Nepal.
To achieve this goal, SUSWA is exploring innovative and technology-based solutions that can help reduce the gender gap in WASH access. For instance, SUSWA is exploring the use of mobile technology and censors to monitor WASH services and to provide real-time feedback to community members. SUSWA is also working to improve the accessibility and safety of WASH facilities for women and girls by designing gender and disability inclusive facilities that are responsive to menstruating related needs, such as disposal facilities.
International Women’s Day 2023 is themed “DigitALL” which calls for leveraging digital technologies for women’s empowerment and gender equality. SUSWA’s innovative approach to reducing the gender gap in WASH access aligns with this theme. By leveraging digital technologies, SUSWA is working with local governments and communities in making WASH services more accessible, efficient, and safe for women and girls in Nepal.
It is worth repeating: gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to achieving sustainable development. Addressing the gender gap in WASH access is critical to achieving these goals. The SUSWA project supports municipalities in Karnali to be at the forefront of promoting gender equity and women’s empowerment in Nepal by improving access to safe water and sanitation facilities and services for women and girls. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, let us continue to support the efforts made by both women and men in Nepal and work towards creating a more equal world for all.
As a nod to this year’s digital theme, the pictures for this blogpost have been created by AI (in Canva)!