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1 | Rationale and Goals

Gender considerations are at the heart of providing, managing and conserving the world’s water resources as well as for safeguarding public health and private dignity through proper provision of sanitation and hygiene. The central role of women in water resource management and sanitation, especially in developing countries, is increasingly recognized at all levels of development activity.

In most countries, women are, in fact, the primary stakeholders in the water and sanitation sectors, and are the primary providers of water for domestic consumption. They are also responsible for health, hygiene, sanitation and other productive activities at the household level. Lack of access to water and sanitation directly affects women’s health, education, employment, income and empowerment. The gendered dynamics of water and sanitation underscore the close inter-linkages between poverty, gender and sustainable development. So far the global commitments in the area of water and sanitation do not address gender differences

The issue of sanitation received global recognition and concrete commitments for the first time in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. There, governments agreed to a specific target to cut in half the proportion of people without basic sanitation by 2015. This complemented the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target on safe drinking water. At the same time, these commitments highlighted the role of sanitation in improving human health, in reducing infant and child mortality, and improving the situation of women in terms of their dignity and security.

So far, global commitments made in the areas of water and sanitation, (including the MDG goals) do not specifically address the equitable division of power, work, access to and control of resources between women and men. The current system to assess global progress towards reaching the MDGs, through the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), until recently did not have any gender indicator for the water and sanitation goals; one gender-specific indicator has now been added. This slight representation underscores how critical it is to better mainstream gender perspectives into national and global water and sanitation (WATSAN) planning and monitoring processes to ensure that the different needs of women and men are understood, and that the specific needs and concerns of women are taken into account.

At the level of policy formation, there is no shortage of rhetorical support for gender inclusion by official agencies and governments. Almost all of the key global frameworks and action plans on water and sanitation include gender considerations in their overall field of vision. Most ‘calls for action’ or recommendations include some commitment to gender inclusion. More broadly, mandates for gender inclusion and gender equity frame almost all the key multilateral agreements to which most of the


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