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Before yesterday4. Cross-cutting

Closing the Equity Gap: Water and Sanitation Data Can Help Us to Ensure No One is Left Behind

4 March 2022 at 15:09

New data revealing disparities in access to water and sanitation by ethnic group offer a powerful tool to help policymakers, program managers, and advocates take action to leave no one behind — the transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and a central focus of USAID Administrator Samantha Power’s vision for inclusive development.

USAID is making water and sanitation equity data from the 2021 report on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) available on the Global Waters website to encourage their use. “We want to elevate this dataset so it can be used to address the gaps that marginalized people face,” says Brian Banks, WASH Analytics and Data Advisor with USAID’s Center for Water Security, Sanitation and Hygiene.

What is the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)? The MPI uses globally comparable data from national surveys in more than 100 developing countries. The surveys assess each person’s experiences with poverty across 10 indicators including health (nutrition, child mortality), education (years of schooling, school attendance), and standard of living (drinking water, sanitation, cooking fuel, electricity, housing, assets).
Learn more and access the full database.

Multidimensional Poverty Index data now spotlight inequities

The MPI measures poverty using 10 indicators of deprivation, including lack of access to improved drinking water and sanitation (see Box 1). For the first time, this annual report from the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) disaggregates all of those indicators by ethnic group, race, or caste (available for 41 countries).

Figure 1. This map shows the 41 countries where MPI water and sanitation equity data are available. Explore the full map.

Drinking Water Equity Map

Most of the surveys included similar questions about ethnic group or tribe (e.g., Senegal), enhancing comparability, but a few focused instead on racial categories (Cuba), caste (India), or a combination of ethnic group and native language (Paraguay) (see Figure 2).

Examples of different categories of data available in various countries

The ethnicity of the head of household was assigned to all members of a household because every survey collected that information but very few surveys collected individual ethnicity data. UNDP Statistics Specialist Cecilia Calderón, who performed the disaggregation by ethnicity, notes that reliance on information about heads of households is a potential limitation of the data. However, the results of a sensitivity analysis conducted for four countries that did collect data for all household members found that both approaches yielded similar results.

Identifying equity gaps

Catarina de Albuquerque, the Chief Executive Officer of Sanitation and Water for All, says the water and sanitation equity data help fill a need for more accurate, reliable data on who is being left behind. “Many countries don’t know who is being excluded from accessing water and sanitation services or why they are being excluded,” she says. “It’s very easy to focus on averages, because they allow you to [ignore] entrenched discrimination against certain population groups.”

Banks notes that the sector has made progress in understanding how marginalization affects access to water and sanitation, looking at differences by gender and urban versus rural areas, for example. However, having data disaggregated by ethnicity makes it possible to understand who is marginalized with greater precision (see Box 2).

“It opens the door for more people to think about whether their programs are actually addressing marginalized communities, because they can examine more substantive dimensions of marginalization,” Banks explains. “And that creates opportunities to reduce some of the systemic factors that have led to lack of access.”

The disaggregated data reveal the degree of disparity in access to water and sanitation among ethnic groups in each country. Data visualizations created by USAID’s Center for Water Security, Sanitation and Hygiene show that the national “equity gap” between those who are most deprived of access to drinking water and those who are least deprived ranges from 84% to 1.7%; for sanitation, the range of national equity gaps is 78% to 1.4% (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Highest and lowest drinking water and sanitation equity gaps

A chart showing the highest and lowest drinking water and sanitation equity gaps

Explore more comparisons across countries and regions.

Using data to drive change

USAID is using visualizations like these to promote the use of the dataset in program design, implementation, and evaluation. Moving forward, the Center for Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene will support USAID missions to use the data to design programs that help improve equitable access to services.

“We’re excited to collaborate with the broader sector to close equity gaps,” says Banks.

Banks emphasizes another way these data can help USAID realize the Administrator’s vision of inclusive development. “They can be used for policy making, but also to make sure marginalized people are represented and consulted about plans and decisions that affect their communities,” he says.

De Albuquerque says the dataset is an important advocacy tool that should be used by international and bilateral organizations, human rights advocates, and journalists to encourage policymakers to address inequalities through their policies, plans, and budgets.

Exploring these data allows WASH actors to understand new facets of equity in WASH services, and begin asking new questions, such as why some countries have such big differences in equity between water and sanitation (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Difference between access to water and access to sanitation in Latin America

A chart showing the difference between access to water and access to sanitation in Latin America

Explore more comparisons across countries and regions.

While USAID works on WASH programming in many of the countries covered in the report, USAID has designated 21 high priority countries for FY 2022 and more than one-third of them have data available in the report. Figure 5 shows the drinking water and sanitation equity gaps for the high priority countries where MPI equity data are available. As USAID continues to strengthen transformational programming in these countries, the new data can help ensure programs do not leave anyone behind.

Figure 5. Water and Sanitation Equity Gaps: FY 2022 USAID High Priority Countries

Water and Sanitation Equity Gaps: FY 2022 USAID High Priority Countries

The data are a stark reminder, de Albuquerque adds, that countries will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of safe water and sanitation for all by 2030 without bringing people who have been marginalized to the forefront. “The data reinforce the urgent need to accelerate progress, in particular, for the most marginalized and the most vulnerable,” she says.

By Kathleen Shears, Science Writer, FHI 360. FHI 360 is a partner on the Global Waters Communication and Knowledge Management Activity supported by USAID’s RFS Center for Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene.


Closing the Equity Gap: Water and Sanitation Data Can Help Us to Ensure No One is Left Behind was originally published in Global Waters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

An online groundwater catalogue

3 March 2022 at 08:46

A catalogue on groundwater management and governance tools, measures and instruments is being developed and will be introduced during the UN-Water Groundwater Summit, to be held in December 2022. The … Read more

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Discussion – where to for utilities working on integrity management?

“Integrity is an aspirational goal where the public interest, honesty and fairness override the personal desire for gain. It has substantial social and economic benefits for cities and their residents.”
Water Integrity Global Outlook 2021: Urban Water and Sanitation

Integrity also has substantial benefits for water and sanitation organisations, in terms of performance and service, as well as reputation. When water and sanitation sector utilities proactively implement measures to support integrity and reduce losses from corruption and malpractice, they engage in integrity management. They may do this as part of a specific integrity strategy, or through change management processes, compliance, or Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) programmmes.

Where are these efforts leading? How can we benchmark current status and what does it take to progress? These are questions that still have vague answers although new data from integrity assessments are pointing to patterns in how integrity practices are implemented and their relationship with organisational development.

Proposing a 5-level integrity maturity model for water and sanitation utilities

Our new discussion paper proposes a five-level integrity maturity model for water and sanitation utilities based on recent data from integrity assessments using integrity indicators. The proposed model provides an evidence-based simplified vision and guide for utilities working to improve integrity in their work processes.

It suggests utilities at level 1 would have integrity practices in place that are easy to implement and primarily aiming to comply with basic legal requirements. Utilities at level 5 would have stronger mechanisms for control and sanctions in place and proactively communicate on integrity-related topics.

More data and discussion are welcome and needed to strengthen the model and support the ambitions of integrity champions. We are keen to hear more about the needs of utilities and their partners and we look forward to exchanging ideas on a model.

 

 

For comments or more information about the methodologies and tools behind this model, write to: UAllakulov(at)win-s(dot)org or join the research discussion on the Sanitation and Water Integrity Research Lab SWIRL) on Linkedin.

The post Discussion – where to for utilities working on integrity management? appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

Space technology for water resources management

28 February 2022 at 09:19

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) are organizing a conference to promote the use of space technology in water management to the benefit of developing countries. The … Read more

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Online Youth Water Congress: Emerging water challenges since COVID-19

24 February 2022 at 08:55

The online Water Youth Congress is co-organized by UNESCO Centre on Integrated and Multidisciplinary Water Resources Management (CIMWRM), hosted by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh), in Greece, in collaboration … Read more

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World Bank: creating water and sanitation utilities fit for the future

21 February 2022 at 09:41

According to the World Bank, poor water and sanitation service delivery “frequently stems from a vicious cycle of dysfunctional political environments and inefficiencies in water and sanitation utilities”. Climate change, … Read more

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Virtual workshop: What will you do with water data?

17 February 2022 at 08:58

The workshop ‘What will you do with water data?’ is hosted  virtually on 23 February at 8 – 9 am ET. The World Bank works closely with partners to achieve … Read more

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Equal Aqua – an inclusive water institutions platform

14 February 2022 at 09:28

Women are an untapped pool of talent for the water sector. As documented in the World Bank’s Women in Water Utilities: Breaking Barriers report, only 18 per cent of water … Read more

The post Equal Aqua – an inclusive water institutions platform appeared first on UN-Water.

Call for expressions of interest to support WHO’s water, sanitation and hygiene work

10 February 2022 at 08:31

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Unit is issuing a call for expressions of interest in four areas: to provide technical support to three areas of its … Read more

The post Call for expressions of interest to support WHO’s water, sanitation and hygiene work appeared first on UN-Water.

New FAO report: The AquaCrop Model

7 February 2022 at 08:57

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have released a new report: The AquaCrop model: enhancing crop water productivity. Ten years of development, dissemination and implementation 2009-2019. … Read more

The post New FAO report: The AquaCrop Model appeared first on UN-Water.

Agreements for transboundary water cooperation: a practical guide

31 January 2022 at 09:09

How can countries and other stakeholders of a shared water basin work towards an effective, adaptable and sustainable cooperation agreement? What do they need to consider in the design and … Read more

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UNESCO Groundwater Youth Network – call for interest

27 January 2022 at 09:11

UNESCO is committed to engaging with youth and young scientists as knowledge holders, change-makers and leaders that contribute to addressing water security. The Groundwater and Settlement Section of the Water … Read more

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Putting women front and centre

26 January 2022 at 12:38

This is the first post in a series focusing on the need and practicalities of mainstreaming gender and social inclusion in water and sanitation from an integrity perspective. To contribute to the discussion or share some insight from your work, contact us at rsands@win-s.org.

Where are the women?

Why are women still so blatantly underrepresented on public platforms? It’s a question raised, once again, after taking part in the preparatory session for the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal last October. Meant to solidify a range of conference elements, stakeholders gathered for two days of panel sessions and dialogues where it was disturbing to see the overwhelming prevalence of male speakers in every session. One could count the total number of women speakers on one hand, and still have fingers to spare. Indeed, the matter was raised by one of the few women speakers. While a representative of the WWF explained to us that several women panelists were not available to the session, is this really an acceptable response in 2021? The optics were deeply concerning, a concern that is heightened by the male dominance of the International Steering Committee for the 9th World Water Forum, and, indeed, of the World Water Council itself.

Efforts to achieve gender parity and a stronger representation of marginalised voices at events has been ongoing for many, many years, but experience in a number of forums as well as research on the matter reaffirm that the sector still has a way to go in achieving gender equality – not only regarding speakers at events, but in equality across a range of roles and responsibilities. A 2019 study led by the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, “Women in Water Utilities, Breaking Barriers”, indicates that less than one in five workers in the water sector are women. In sampled utilities, only 23% of licensed engineers are women, and only 23% of managers are female. 32% of utilities in the study had no female engineers and 12% no female managers. This is much lower than their 35% representation in the STEM sector … so why are women not getting appointed? Why are women still missing in leadership and on platforms in the water and sanitation sector?

Integrity in the water sector is constructed on four pillars: transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption actions. If women are not at the table, if women are not on the platforms, the very notion of participation is undermined.

 

 

Women are the primary household water managers and have specific water and sanitation needs; they must not be brushed aside.

 Panel composition speaks loudly to perceptions of who is considered an expert in the sector. When the conversation is dominated by a single group, it sends a message that one must fit a certain mould to be heard and women, girls, and other marginalised groups struggle to see strong role models that they can emulate.

But the contribution of women and men in water and sanitation management is also of importance from an integrity perspective, and not only because corruption impacts men and women differently. There is also evidence that greater diversity in governance structures, particularly gender diversity, results in lower levels of corruption and malfeasance.

As highlighted in a recent podcast from UN Habitat and the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), a higher rate of executive gender diversity has also shown evidence that better performance rates follow. The positive impacts of balanced gender representation therefore go far beyond just conferences and events. As such, the water and sanitation sector would be remiss in failing to promote equal representation across the board.

 

Progress at local levels makes gaps at the top all the more glaring

 In our work, we have seen the benefits of women’s involvement at the community level. Perhaps due to the deeper contribution of CSOs and the propensity for stronger women’s leadership locally, workshops and training in communities have seen an improved balance of men’s and women’s participation in some countries. In Mexico, for example, implementation of the Integrity Management Toolbox for Small Water Supply Systems resulted in more women engaging in dialogue and ultimately in the management of the water schemes, increasing the opportunities for these women to become champions of integrity.

 

 

The Gold Standard: Making good on promises

 Going back to the issue of women and conferences, in 2017, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) introduced a ‘Gold Standard’ for World Water Week, the leading annual event for global water issues. The standard mandates that sessions must include at least 40% women among the speakers and at least one panelist under the age of 35. As almost half of World Water Week participants are women and one-third are under age 35, SIWI acknowledged that this demography needed to be reflected in the event’s panels.

The results have been telling: When it was first introduced, only 10% of sessions met the criteria; after a year this number increased to 80%. More, recognising the need for organisers to have access to a range of qualified speakers, SIWI created two speaker directories where qualifying individuals can submit an application to be considered: Water Women and Young Professionals. Those interested in being considered as a speaker are encouraged to submit their applications to be included in a directory, giving women and young professionals more agency and visibility to have their work and perspectives recognised.

The next step needs to be ensuring that panels are also balanced from a geographical perspective. Particularly with international events, greater focus must be placed on providing a wider range of experiences that all partners can relate to – not just those perspectives coming from the global north.

 

Devising an approach for success

As can be seen from the Gold Standard, designing and implementing a straightforward policy goes a long way in ensuring a higher representation of women and minority groups. When organising an event, the following recommendations can guide the development of a clear strategy:

  • Ensure that a gender perspective informs session planning. This can help to mitigate event formats or speaker requirements that are inadvertently biased.
  • Strive for gender parity or other group quotas from the outset in the selection of speakers and in panel composition. Identify the obstacles that might impede women’s participation (i.e. childcare, funding, sufficient time for scheduling) and work towards implementing solutions.
  • Plan ahead. Whether this be developing a directory of women experts or securing several back-up speakers, take the steps necessary to ensure that last minute changes or cancellations do not affect your objectives.
  • Diversify panel topics and place a specific focus on inviting panellists who are true experts in their subject, regardless of their position. Given the disparity between men and women in leadership positions in the water and sanitation sector, organisers are more likely to find a woman panellist with experience and know-how in her field by targeting beyond just heads of organisations.
  • Track gender balance at events – having accurate numbers on-hand will help organisers to measure progress and fine-tune the gender strategy.

The equal representation of men and women on public platforms and in leadership positions is not just essential for tackling the consequences that water governance and integrity issues have upon the lives of women, youth, and other marginalised groups, but for integrating women and women’s perspectives to improve governance and performance throughout the sector.

 

 

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World Wetlands Day 2022, action for people and nature

24 January 2022 at 09:40

World Wetlands Day is now an official United Nations observance. The UN General Assembly adopted resolution 75/317 in August 2021, proclaiming 2 February as World Wetlands Day. Celebrated since 1997, … Read more

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Drought, COVID and multi-risk assessment – webinar

20 January 2022 at 09:36

Droughts cause deep and multi-faceted damage to ecosystems, (agro) economies and societies, particularly to vulnerable rural people in developing countries. A forthcoming webinar by the Global Framework on Water Scarcity … Read more

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Global Wetland Outlook: Special Edition 2021

13 January 2022 at 09:04

The Global Wetland Outlook: Special Edition 2021 has been launched to mark the Ramsar Convention’s 50th anniversary. Drawing on more than 30 major global and regional assessments and other recent … Read more

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FAO online course in water-use efficiency

10 January 2022 at 09:27

How to measure change in water-use efficiency over time is the focus of an e-learning course from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that aims to … Read more

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Women remain underrepresented in water resources management

6 January 2022 at 09:41

A new report by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and UNEP-DHI (United Nations Environment Programme Centre of Water and Environment), shows progress has been slow in countries meeting gender objectives in … Read more

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Water’s role in global migration

3 January 2022 at 09:34

There are more than 1 billion migrants in the world today – and water deficits are linked to 10% of the rise in global migration. The World Bank’s recently-released flagship publication … Read more

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