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3 | Summary of Overarching Themes

The two-day meeting drew out several overarching themes:

There are strong rhetorical and written policy commitments to taking gender into account throughout the water and sanitation sector; however, the available data and data-collection efforts are not commensurate with these commitments, especially at the large-scale or global level.

Neither the quality nor the type of data currently collected are adequate to the task of supporting gender MDG (or other) goals in water and sanitation. In particular, using “the household” as the main unit of analysis, as most global surveys do, hinders gendered analysis by obscuring intra-household gender dynamics. Moreover, for the poorest people of the world, water and sanitation are not

available within the physical or social confines o the “household.”

Overall, more attention is paid to and more data are available for the water sector than for sanitation. In turn, more attention is paid to household and drinking water than to the water sector in agriculture. The sole gendered data


Moreover, for the poorest people of the world, water and sanitation are not available within the physical or social confines of the “household.

point currently available on a large scale is on which member(s) of the household has primary responsibility for water collection: male or female, adult or child. This question is now incorporated into the household surveys on which the Joint Monitoring Project reports are based. The JMP team has considered a range of other gendered questions, but concluded that none are practicable to incorporate into their surveys.

The measure of progress most used in the sanitation sector is the presence of a toilet. Questions about issues such as excreta collection and disposal, personal safety in access to sanitation facilities, gendered intra-household differences in access and use of facilities are seldom addressed and almost never at a policy level. But, work in the sanitation sector demonstrates that starting from “presence/absence” information (e.g., “is a toilet facility present?”) is an inadequate indicator of actual facility availability and use. In this sector, qualitative assessments on the state of maintenance and hygiene of facilities must be taken into account to get a clearer picture of access and use; in this case, threshold indicators need to be developed on whether sanitary facilities are “safe and appropriate.”

The quantity and quality of gender-disaggregated data on smaller scales is considerably better than at the global scale, and is available for a wide range of topics – including actual water use and priorities for use within households, women’s participation in formal decision-making and policy-setting institutional structures, girls’ access to sanitary facilities at school, and links between water collection and sanitation access and transportation, among other topics.


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