WASH and Gender: a critical review of the literature and implications for gender-transformative WASH research

December 2020

This is a literature review over the last decade of WASH-gender literature (2008–2018) on the connections between gender and WASH. The review finds that the literature is dominated by women-focused, water-focused studies. The majority of these studies were based in rural sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Only a few studies referred to the gender dynamics relevant for a diversity of women. Studies on men and boys were mostly absent. Furthermore, few studies engaged with transformational aspects of gender equality. The review also explores the implications for the integration of gender-transformative principles into WASH programming and research.

Who might find this resource useful and why?

Who: WASH programme managers, gender advisors,  implementing partners as well as researchers

Why: WASH programmes can take an instrumentalist approach to gender in WASH programmes – involvement of women in WASH programmes is expected to improve the effectiveness of projects, and benefit women specifically in their role within the household. Gender transformative strategies create space for women and men to identify and address constraining gender norms and gender barriers that perpetuate inequalities. Different types of approaches are needed – as well as shifts in norms and behaviours – to design and implement gender transformative WASH programmes. Insights from this analysis suggests ways in which WASH programme advisors can include a diversity of voices and incorporate gender-transformative concepts into WASH programmes.

Additional details

PublisherJournal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development
ThemesBehaviour change, Gender, Gender transformative WASH, Social norms

Share this resource

Learn more about SLH Research

We use a range of research approaches, which aim to draw attention to urgent knowledge gaps, blind spots and emerging questions, often at a critical point in time, to support policy-makers, practitioners and partners in navigating and responding swiftly.

SLH Research and Learning