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Webinar Watershed Programme IWRM-WASH

FANSA (Fresh Action Network South Asia), Watershed's regional partner in Asia, hosted a webinar for Watershed to share learnings and experiences in IWRM/WASH.

The 25 participants from all over the South Asia region engaged with the overall programme, the linkages between IWRM and WASH, and heard from WaterAid Bangladesh - implementing partner in Bangladesh.

The one hour webinar provided a useful platform for sharing and starting discussions beyond Watershed's normal partners. It is intended to be the start of a regular series of webinars within FANSA network to strengthen capacity and enhance learning.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Ghana reactivates the call for a National Sanitation Authority

Plans for a new national sanitation body in Ghana have been reactivated by the government, raising the hope of accelerated efforts towards universal coverage. But serious challenges remain.

By Azzika Yussif Tanko, Research & Policy Lead for WSUP in Ghana

The National Sanitation Authority (NSA) will focus on coordinating national sanitation improvements, with a proposed National Sanitation Fund (NSF) aiming to mobilise increased funding for sanitation services in the country.

The commitment was made by the Mole XXX Conference in early November by the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumina, following two years of discussions with the sanitation sector. The Authority and the Fund will form part of Ghana’s Ministry for Sanitation and Water Resources playing a critical role in regulations and standards setting.

Why is this such a big step forward in Ghana?

Institutions that deal with sanitation issues at both local and national levels in Ghana tend to be weak, culminating in low progress achieved on sanitation over the years. The challenges are complex – just see the report WSUP published recently, Sales Glitch, which analyses systemic challenges to building a market for sanitation products and services, as an example of some of the difficulties.

Poor sanitation facilities in Kumasi

Nationally, just 21% of Ghanaians have access to at least basic sanitation. Rates of open defecation are also increasing, and in urban areas, a large amount of residents are dependent on public toilets which are often filthy, unsafe and over time, more expensive than other forms of sanitation facilities.

The costs of this poor sanitation is devastating: annually, about 19,000 Ghanaians, including about 3,600 children under five, die of diarrhoea-related infections. In 2014 alone, more than 29,000 people were infected with cholera out of which 248 lost their lives.

Sanitation waste collection services

The importance of a National Sanitation Authority cannot be overestimated. Compared to water, the sanitation sector is making slow progress, and the government urgently needs a strategic body that can accelerate and fast track universal sanitation services delivery in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It will take on the responsibility for many sanitation governance functions such as formulating policy, developing legal frameworks, planning, coordination, funding and financing, capacity development, data acquisition and monitoring, standards setting and regulation.

WSUP has been advising the government of Ghana, alongside other partners such as CONIWAS, the Coalition of NGOs in Water & Sanitation. In a report published last year upon the completion of an international institutional comparative study, WSUP recommended that the NSA should have five important functions:

  • Institutional development and sector coordination
  • Research and development, standard setting
  • Infrastructure development
  • Capacity building of Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies
  • Monitoring and regulation

Report - Ghana’s National Sanitation Authority: recommended role and responsibilities

Even though the National Sanitation Authority and Fund are yet to be fully set up, some lessons have been learnt in the process about how organisations such as WSUP can support government institutional change.

First, influencing government for institutional set up takes time and therefore demands a lot of patience, since process can be very slow, iterative and frustrating.

But the most important is never give up and never say it’s impossible, it can always be done no matter the challenges.

Second, influencing also works better when coalitions are formed. The collaboration between WSUP and CONIWAS and Media Coalition on Open Defection (M-CODe) in Ghana also helped a lot in pushing the government to this far.

Setting up the NSA, and ensuring that it is effective, will be challenging. In the international institutional review study, conducted for the Ghanaian government, WSUP identified that no other country – of the 15 countries analysed – had an equivalent sanitation body which holds as many roles as it proposed for the NSA. WSUP will continue to advise the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources on the set-up of the NSA and the accompanying Fund.

Top image: Sanitation block construction

Appointment to Compliance Committee under the Protocol on Water and Health

I am excited to share with all the SWA partners that I have recently been elected as a new member of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)-WHO/Europe Protocol on Water and Health Compliance Committee. The Protocol on Water and Health is a legally binding instrument aimed at “achieving an adequate supply of safe drinking water and sanitation for everyone and effectively protecting water resources in the pan-European region”. The compliance committee oversees the conformity of Parties’ action with their obligations under the Protocol. 

As we are nearing the 10th anniversary of the recognition of human rights to water and sanitation, I would like to applaud the constructive approach taken by the countries– with governments emphasizing on accountability, on participation and access to information. Moreover, under the Protocol for Water and Health, there has been significant progress in a number of areas, including (i) Improving governance for water and health; (ii) Prevention and reduction of water-related diseases; (iii) Institutional water, sanitation and hygiene; (iv) Safe and efficient management of water supply and sanitation systems; (v) Small-scale water supplies and sanitation; (vi) Increasing resilience to climate change; and (vii) compliance.  

However, we still have a long way to go. Over 31 million people in the Pan-European region still lack access to basic sanitation services and 314,000 people practice open defecation. Every day, 14 people die because of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).  

The Protocol on Water and Health has found that there is a need for an integrated approach to water management (from environmental protection to service providers) as a preliminary condition to ensure access to safe water for all. The implementation of the Protocol requires an integrated approach and the alignment of policies and strategies in different sectors, ranging from health protection to environmental management, regional development, investment, infrastructures and education. This calls for multi-stakeholder engagement and inter-sectoral cooperation- an approach that fits well with Sanitation and Water for All, a partnership of countries, civil society, external support agencies, the private sector and research and learning institutions.   

This Protocol also provides a framework to put into practice the human rights to water and sanitation and to implement SDG6 through the initiative of the self-assessment Equitable Scorecard. Interestingly, SWA’s Mutual Accountability Mechanism (MAM) corresponds to the UNECE’s identified need to ensure compliance, especially regarding the commitments taken by SWA partners. I think that there are lessons that can be learnt from each other.  

Currently our partners come predominantly from Asia, Africa and Latin America, I am looking forward to work further and welcome partners from Europe and beyond. While the extent of the problems may be different across the globe, the tools to address the problems of inequalities, climate change, corruption, including strengthening systems, improving policy, holding duty-bearers to account and increasing financing are universal. With this appointment, I will do my best to promote the realization of the rights to water and sanitation in the region. 

– Catarina de Albuquerque 
CEO, Sanitation and Water For All 

The post Appointment to Compliance Committee under the Protocol on Water and Health appeared first on SWA.

Vulnerable people have difficulty accessing WASH services

Vulnerable groups live a dog’s life – a feature article in Uganda’s Saturday Vision.

A recent study done by IRC Uganda established that different groups of people in Uganda are marginalised from access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. The groups include women and girls, communities in hard-to-serve/reach areas, children, the elderly, the poor, ethnic minorities and persons living with disabilities (PWDS). The other affected groups are people with unique livelihoods like pastoralists, forest dwellers, fishermen, refugees and transient communities.

The IRC report highlighted the importance of the involvement of civil society organisations (CSOs) in advocacy work and WASH policy formulation. “It was widely acknowledged that CSOs have a significant role to play in addressing marginalisation and exclusions from WASH services. CSOs are better positioned to create awareness on the right to water and sanitation, as well as facilitate documentation and learning processes,” the report reads in part. It adds that CSOs can effectively contribute to policy processes through investing in research and innovations to support evidence-based advocacy, as well as facilitating policy dialogues.

Lydia Mirembe (IRC Uganda) is interviewed on the report and is quoted several times in the feature article in Uganda's Saturday Vision. The full article is available as a download below.


Bruce Gordon and Oliver Subasinghe on the 2019 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) Report

In the latest USAID Global Waters Radio podcast, hear the World Health Organization’s Bruce Gordon, one of the creators of the 2019 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) Report, share key takeaways from this year’s data, collected from more than 100 countries. podcast

As we move closer to 2030, how are countries doing in their pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals for water and sanitation?

Click below to give a listen to this important progress report, and feel free to share with interested colleagues.

Link to the podcast.




Globalwaters.org updates | New WHO, WSUP reports | WASH research updates

Recent updates to Globalwaters.org

Bruce Gordon and Oliver Subasinghe on the 2019 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) Report – The latest podcast from Global Waters Radio features a conversation with Bruce Gordon, Coordinator for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), and Oliver Subasinghe, Communications and Data Advisor with the USAID Water Office.

Children wash their hands outside school in Samabogo, Mali.

Children wash their hands outside school in Samabogo, Mali.

DESIGNING VIABLE SANITATION ENTERPRISES – A MARKET BASED SANITATION GAME – USAID/WASHPaLS developed a game called Designing Viable Sanitation Enterprises to serve as a tool for MBS practitioners to understand and appreciate the interactions between the elements of a sanitation enterprise, the entrepreneur, and the broader context.

USAID Seeks Input on its Water and Development Research Agenda – To take advantage of the concentrated water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)–sector knowledge represented at the 2019 University of North Carolina Water and Health Conference, we held a consultation designed to share our process in developing a research agenda.

USAID in the News – Cambodia – Stone Family Foundation, IDE and USAID Launch Sanitation Development Impact Bond.


Watering the NDCs: National Climate Planning for 2020 and Beyond. AGWA, 2019. Watering the NDCs provides guiding principles and recommendations for national climate planners and decision-makers to help ensure they meet their goals set out in National Adaptation Plans and Nationally Determined Contributions.

Safer water, better health. WHO, 2019. This high disease burden could be largely prevented with existing interventions and prevention strategies, which are described in this report.

Impact of Early Life Exposure to Environments with Unimproved Sanitation on Education Outcomes: Evidence from Bangladesh. World Bank, November 2019.  A child’s early exposure to unimproved sanitation decreases the likelihood of being enrolled in primary school by eight to ten percentage points on average compared with a child with access to improved sanitation.

Systems Reboot: Sanitation sector change in Maputo and Lusaka. WSUP, November 2019. This Discussion Paper contributes provides illustrative examples of how a systems approach can be applied at a city level by looking at two cities – Lusaka, Zambia and Maputo, Mozambique – that have experienced positive change in their on-site sanitation sector over the last decade.

Health, safety and dignity of sanitation workers: An initial assessment. World Bank Group, World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, Water Aid, 2019. This report, the most extensive global exploration of the topic to date, analyzes the problems, explores good practices, and sets out actions to improve the health, safety and dignity of sanitation workers.

Scaling Up the Sanitation Economy 2020-2025. Toilet Board Coalition, November 2019. Sanitation is one of the most pervasive yet overlooked development challenges facing us in the 21st century. There are 3 pathways to scale via cities, sectors and standards.

Water, sanitation and hygiene: three essential ingredients to resilient agriculture supply chains. WaterAid, 2019. Our booklet helps provide a starting point for action, explaining why WASH management should already be part of business as usual and offering the first practical steps companies can take to improve access to WASH in their supply chains.

Journal Articles

Gut carriage of antimicrobial resistance genes among young children in urban Maputo, Mozambique: Associations with enteric pathogen carriage and environmental risk factors. PLoS One, November 22, 2019. Antimicrobial resistance genes carriage may be associated with concurrent carriage of bacterial enteric pathogens, suggesting indirect linkages to WASH that merit further investigation.

Protocol Article: Water usage, hygiene and diarrhea in low-income urban communities – a mixed method prospective longitudinal study. MethodsX, 19 November 2019. This study aimed to describe the methodological protocol that adapted multidisciplinary and mixed-method research approach to assess how water usage including water quantity influences the attributable risk for diarrhea in a low-income urban community in Bangladesh.

Translating pathogen knowledge to practice for sanitation decision-making. Journal of Water and Health, in press 2019. We present findings from a stakeholder engagement workshop held in Kampala – Uganda to educate, interact with, and solicit feedback from participants on how the relevant scientific literature on pathogens can be made more accessible to practitioners to support decision-making.

Concept mapping: Engaging stakeholders to identify factors that contribute to empowerment in the water and sanitation sector in West Africa. SSM – Population Health, December 2019. This study used concept mapping to uncover the meaning and key dimensions of empowerment in WASH among 34 and 24 stakeholders in Asutifi North District, Ghana, and Banfora Commune, Burkina Faso.


Children wash their hands outside school in Samabogo, Mali.

15000km.org visits the SMART Centre in Malawi

The CCAP SMART Centre in Malawi recently welcomed Gabriela Masfarre and William Maize for a visit to the Centre. Gabriela and William have been travelling around Southern Africa for over 15.000km to document initiatives around water, sanitation, energy and waste management. Based on their visit to the SMART Centre they published a blog on www.15000km.org. See https://15000kmafrica.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/ccap-smart-centre-malawi/ for the full blog.

Updates from Zambia and Malawi

The SMART Centres in Zambia and Malawi regularly publish a newsletter with updates and exiting developments. Their most recent newsletters can be accessed through the links below:

Jacana SMART Centre – Zambia:  Newsletter November

CCAP SMART Centre – Malawi: Newsletter November

Advocating for improved public investments for WASH in HCFs in Kenya

Despite official plans many of Kenya’s public healthcare facilities lack basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services particularly for persons with a disability.

This blog is written by Christine Ajulu, Project Officer at HERAF, Kenya

The Kenya government has meant to bring a standard of health services to the country through the 2005-2010 National Health Sector Strategic Plan and the subsequent Health Sector Strategic and Investment Plan 2013-2017. Outlined within these national strategies is Kenya’s Essential Package of Health Services (EPHS), which is the basic health service a government is, or aspires to, provide all citizens in an equitable manner. In 2009, dimension 4 of the EPHS has proposed proper programmes for sanitation in healthcare facilities (HCF). Despite these official plans many of Kenya’s HCFs lack basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, such as adequate and constant supply of safe drinking water, handwashing stations for healthcare professionals and patients, clean gender and disability friendly toilets, waste disposal bins and incinerators.  

To address these ongoing disparities Health Rights Advocacy Forum (HERAF) is bringing in their extensive advocacy experience to improve WASH conditions in Kenya’s Nyeri and Isiolo Counties public HCFs with a grant from IRC. They began meeting with local government officials, healthcare professionals, and community members. The topic of WASH in HCFs caught most attendees by surprise because they had not been part of deliberations on these policies and public investment decisions. 

During the meetings, local residents and healthcare professionals shared their accounts with local government officials to illustrate the issues. Community members identified a lack of WASH facilities as contributing to people shying away from local public HCFs, which negatively affects access to and delivery of healthcare. The meetings uncovered the lack of comprehensive policies, inadequate county health facilities investment plans, budgets and political goodwill towards providing WASH in HCF. Often there was only one member of staff or a volunteer in charge of these services who was not properly trained or paid regularly, and typically lacked the basic personal protective equipment to perform their duties.  

HERAF mobilised other community service organisations (CSOs) to reach out to county government planning and budget officials to prioritise WASH in HCFs. Officials were asked to establish budget lines for WASH in HCFs and allocate funds for each of the county healthcare facilities in the 2019/2020 financial year budget. The CSOs consulted with government officials to understand how decisions for WASH in HCFs were made, how much budget was allocated, spent and what could be done to improve policy implementation and expenditure.  

A petition was developed and submitted for consideration to the office of the County Executive Committee (CEC) Member for Finance and to the County Assembly, through the Budget and Appropriation Committee. It is hoped these efforts will help in improving the investment for WASH in HCFs and subsequently encourage more citizens to access healthcare services from public healthcare facilities.

A set of toilets under renovation at one of the rural health facilities in Nyeri County

WASH in HCF for persons with disabilities 

Despite continued infrastructural development and improved access to quality health services, persons with disabilities (PWDs) continue to face challenges in accessing full spectrum WASH services. A person confined to a wheelchair must overcome the obstacle of travelling long distances to seek services, often on a motorbike taxi, and the long queues that characterise public health facilities, so to arrive at the HCF and find no accessible toilet facility adds agony to the already challenging experience. 

Explaining this impediment to medical care in rural HCF, one woman told HERAF employees, “I brought a relative to the hospital who was requested to present urine samples for laboratory tests. Attempts to use the only available patient’s toilet proved futile. Despite navigating the challenging terrain towards the toilet, the small toilet space could not accommodate the wheelchair. I had to take her to the nearby bush to get these samples thereby lowering her dignity in attempt to enjoy the right to health.”

Her sentiments were echoed by a health care worker who pointed out that “Indeed I have never thought about how a person in a wheelchair goes about to collect stool or urine samples for diagnostic testing in our laboratory. As clinicians we are quick to request for samples without giving it a thought”.

It is not uncommon for persons with disabilities to forego hospital visits in preference of self-medication because of the lack of rights-based planning at HCFs, including WASH access. Little or no attention is given to the less fortunate in seeking their views in decisions. They are almost always an afterthought.  

 “All along our health facilities toilets were put up with abled persons in mind. The issue of disability friendly WASH services was alien for a long time. We must now plan and budget with PWD in mind”, said a chair of a rural health facility management committee.

Targeted sensitisation of communities on the need for both proper and disability accessible WASH facilities is important in informing community actions in advocacy. This understanding can be translated into creating or renovating WASH facilities to ensure they are friendly to PWD, ensuring each HCF has dedicated staff to maintain facilities. As a result of HERAF’s advocacy efforts, one health facility in Nyeri County will start renovating all the toilets to ensure that they are safe and accessible to all clients. 

Making information on the use of water resources in Chile open and transparent

The promotion of an open government and the empowerment of citizens through co-creation processes using technology could sound like a distant goal. But as challenging as it sounds, there are steps being taken in this direction. This is evidenced by the initiatives contained in the action plans adopted by the governments that are part of the Open Government Partnership, (OGP).


Launching open government initiatives: opening up information on water licensing

In Chile, the Water Directorate (DGA in Spanish) has taken part in the OGP process since 2016. The OGP participation in Chile is coordinated by the Presidency’s Secretariat General (SEGPRES), which serves as the national point of contact (PoC). Since Chile’s first Action Plan, SEGPRES has promoted a participatory process with civil society organizations and public entities. Through this process, the DGA presented its first commitment in the 2016-2018 Action Plan.

To fulfil its first commitment, the DGA developed an easy-to-access web app. The app makes it possible to obtain information on the demand and granting of water use licenses in the country and makes it easier to file complaints in case of damage.

In particular, the app makes it possible to visualize georeferenced information on resolved and ongoing water rights submitted to the DGA and allows public consultation of water-rights documentation. It also provides visualizations of the location of citizen complaints filed in relation to violations to the Water Code (Código de Aguas, C.A.).  Among the most frequent violations are: the construction of unauthorized works on watercourses (Art. 41 y 171 C.A.) unauthorized water extraction (Art. 20, 59 and 163 C.A.; Art. 42 and 43 D.S. 203/2013), and non-compliance with the conditions for the exercise of water use rights (control of water extractions, Art. 68 C.A.).


The fourth Open Government National Action Plan: progress and new tools for transparency on water extraction

ARTICLE 68°- “The Water Directorate General may require the installation and maintenance of systems for the measurement of flows, of extracted volumes and of phreatic levels in [the construction and operation of hydraulic] works, in addition to a system for the transmission and sharing of the information obtained. In the case of non-consumptive exploitation rights, this requirement shall also apply to aquifer restitution works […]”

Water Code, Law 21.064

Since 2018, DGA is working to disseminate information to the public and increase transparency on the use of water resources as a contribution to commitment #8 on water resources of Chile’s latest OGP Action Plan 2018-2020. These efforts are in line with the most recent changes to the Water Code, Law 21.064, specifically in relation to article 68. Specifically, the DGA has decided to make available to the public data on water extraction by different users, including farmers, mining and forestry companies, and other water rights holders.

To do this, DGA is developing a new web app. The data visualized in this app will be partly user-generated and further complemented by documentation on water use rights. Larger water users have to set up a meter system that automatically generates the georeferenced data that is then sent to DGA, while smaller users will report the information through excel sheets centralized by DGA. While there is the risk of users manipulating the excel sheet (or even the meters), DGA expects that the publication of the data and social monitoring and pressure will be an incentive for relatively accurate input.

Focused on transparency and public access to information on water use, this work on National Action Plan commitments seeks to reduce uncertainty regarding water availability, given the extreme water scarcity that affects Chile. A water scarcity decree has been issued for 56 communes and an agricultural emergency officially declared in 111, impacting over 400,000 people. The DGA has been questioned for not having all relevant information on the registration, allocation and management of water rights in the country. The new system is an attempt to respond.


Disclosure must go hand in hand with citizen engagement

It is important to put these efforts into context. The issues we face in the water management sector will not be solved with just data. The creation of opportunities for citizens to use and engage with the information and platform for their benefit is essential.

At present, the data that will be published is mainly contained in specialized studies. These studies neither disaggregate the data nor consider the local scale. This is an example of a dissociation between the functioning of public services and the people they serve. Disaggregation would allow for a better understanding and use of the information by those who need it most. And to further prevent or reduce disconnection to citizens’ needs, it is essential to listen to what people have to say, address and resolve complaints and grievances in an empathic, committed and needs-focused manner.

This experience reinforces the idea that the main efforts to promote principles of co-creation, transparency and participation need to be initiated by the State. This will ensure credibility and increased cooperation between the government and civil organisations, allowing for the construction of a true path towards the improvement of people’s quality of life. However, such efforts, like the web platforms created to promote transparency and access to public information, will not fulfil their mission if they are not complemented well through citizen engagement.


The post Making information on the use of water resources in Chile open and transparent appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

El Porvenir's response to Nicaragua's depleting water supply

By: editor
El Porvenir's response to Nicaragua's depleting water supply editor 1 December 2019 - 09:00

Implications of recent WASH and nutrition studies for WASH policy and practice – WHO/UNICEF position paper

Implications of recent WASH and nutrition studies for WASH policy and practice – WHO/UNICEF position paper, November 2019. Children wash their hands outside school in Samabogo, Mali.

The WHO/UNICEF position paper summarizes the studies, contextualizes the findings within the wider body of evidence and distills the implications for future investments. The paper is accompanied by a recorded interview with the heads of WASH for WHO and UNICEF and the lead author of a consensus statement from leading researchers.

An excerpt – What are the implications for WASH programming?

The findings of WASH Benefits and SHINE are not a reason to do less on WASH. Conversely, the historical significance of WASH in disease control, the strong conceptual basis for WASH (Box 2) and the need for WASH to reduce the potential for outbreaks in addition to breaking endemic transmission all indicate that the WASH sector collectively needs to do more and better to reach the ambitious targets of the SDGs.

The findings also highlight blind spots in typical WASH programming – particularly the role of animal waste and fecal contamination of food during irrigation and food preparation that are often overlooked in WASH programme design.

Many have called for transformative WASH In response to the studies but with some ambiguity around what is meant. While the consensus is that this implies interventions that lead to a comprehensively clean environment (Box 1), the path to this result is not universally agreed.


Children wash their hands outside school in Samabogo, Mali.

Leaving no one behind is easy to say, but hard to do

By: editor
Leaving no one behind is easy to say, but hard to do editor 26 November 2019 - 09:58

Evaluation of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Environmental Conditions in 40 Healthcare Facilities in Kabarole District, Uganda

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IRC, and the District Health Office (DHO) conducted a baseline assessment of Kabarole District health centers in August and September 2018. At each assessed health center, CDC and partners conducted in-depth quantitative assessments, source and stored water testing for free and total chlorine residuals and E. coli contamination; knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) surveys of health providers and cleaning staff; focus group discussions or key informant interviews with health providers, cleaning staff, and patients; and observations of clinical staff hand hygiene practices.

The baseline assessment took place in 40 health centers in Kabarole District, Uganda, including all 30 public health centers and 10 private health centers.

‘Sex for Water’- How women are paying the price of water


By Sareen Malik, Coordinator, African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) and SWA Steering Committee Vice-Chair

© UNICEF/Chudeau

Corruption in the water sector is not new. But when the currency to access this service is a woman’s body, corruption is showing a different face. Unfortunately, many of us are oblivious to the damaging impact of the gendered roles and social responsibilities women bear as the main water providers for households.

Water providers may ask for sex as a bribe in return for providing this basic service. Women and girls are disproportionally affected by this gendered non-monetary corruption called ‘sextortion’. The term sextortion is used by the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) to describe “the pervasive, but often ignored, form of sexual exploitation and corruption that occurs when people in positions of authority – whether government officials, judges, educators, law enforcement personnel, or employers – seek to extort sexual favours in exchange for something in their power to grant or withhold” (2017 UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility). Sextortion is neither recognized in global and national surveys about corruption nor in any international convention. Therefore, this issue often remains hidden and is met with skepticism.

In September, we had a large community meeting with women and girls from informal settlements in Kibera near Nairobi. Listening to their stories and experiences were traumatic. We had women and girls telling us not just about coercion and the assault that takes place when they are fetching water but also seduction and grooming behaviour that is prevalent at water points. Some girls said, ‘yes they were seduced at the water point’ and some were violated at another point while fetching water. This is possible because water is not affordable, not accessible and is hijacked by cartels who are taking advantage of the situation. One of the critical questions that came up throughout the meeting was “why are the water vendors always men?” and “why can’t women be active in this field?”.

Beyond the sexual violation and rape, negative health outcomes are also stemming from sex for water. We see cases of teenage pregnancy and school dropouts. We were told by the community worker in Kibera that young girls were experiencing irritations in their intimate regions due to poor hygiene resulting from no access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and instead of seeking and understanding that this was actually coming from poor hygiene practices, the advice that was given to these young girls was that they should have sex to sort this out.  In the meeting, we also had a member of parliament who grew up in Kibera telling us that this has been going on from the past decade or more. In those days when water was not provided to the informal settlements- they would go to the country club at night, wherein the watchman would open the mains but this came with all kinds of complications.

Even, five years ago when we were conducting focus group discussions under the human rights approach programme, supported by WaterAid and KEWSANET- we were told by many women they were exchanging sexual favours to get water. For some years, this issue gained no traction– people remained in denial. But thanks to #MeToo movement, we reintroduced the topic of sex for water in our advocacy work and managed to even present on this issue during the 2018 Stockholm World Water Week. Additionally, we compiled a video on testimonials about women and men having engaged in sextortion.  In September, with KEWASNET, we launched the programme Sex for Water in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, supported by the Danish People’s Aid . This programme aims to reduce gender based violence in WASH by mainly addressing transactional sex and sextortion issues.

The issue of sex for water cannot be addressed in isolation- there is a need for collective action– between communities and services providers and also governments. We have seen a lot of silence around sextortion, violence and the issue of informal water service providers. This must be mainstreamed and integrated into the legislation and monitoring initiative with special recognition of sextortion as a form of corruption. As SWA Steering Committee Vice-Chair, I would like to highlight these unheard stories from the field through this platform and raise awareness on the fact that these women and girls should be much more at the center of our WASH discussions and actions.

This is more crucial than ever given the interconnected nature of the Sustainable Development Goals: with Goal 6.1 targeting universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, Goal 5 focusing on gender equality and Goal 16.5 asking to reduce all forms of corruption and bribery. The goal of safely managed services is ambitious but as we all know, water is a human right, and securing this right must be a priority for all governments. This can only be achieved through concerted and focused approaches that acknowledge that gender-based violence can even be a part of the simple act of collecting water.



The post ‘Sex for Water’- How women are paying the price of water appeared first on SWA.