“Enhance women’s participation in Sanitation”


IIYW team, Nagpur. 

Indian institute of Youth Welfare (IIYW), a partner NGO of CDD Society and BORDA regularly conducts capacity building programmes for various sectors of the society mainly for women, adolescents and children. One such programme was organised at the Lonara Campus of IIYW from 20th to 22nd Nov 2012 for the women and adolescents from “Community life Centres”. The topic of this training programme was “Health-Hygiene and Sanitation”. Sanitation and Hygiene habits play a very important role in maintaining clean and healthy home and community. This message was spread through different sessions facilitated by experts from IIYW. The trained participants would act as the “change agents” for the respective “Community Life Centre” and further spread the message to the communities in which they work as facilitators and hygiene promoters.

Following article is an abstract from a session taken by IIYW expertise from the training on “Health, Hygiene and Sanitation” organised by IIYW, Nagpur. 


Women and Sanitation -

Women play a very important role in protecting health, imbibing hygiene habits and improving sanitation at family and community level. She has direct concern with preventing diseases arising out of contaminated water, and hygiene condition of house and surroundings as well as sanitation conditions at community level. She is mainly responsible for hygienically feeding infants and cooking safe food for her children and other family members. She can bring in her children, good habits like washing hands before eating, regular bathing habits and wearing clean clothes and footwear so as to keep them away from water borne diseases like malaria, diarrhea and other skin diseases. She can help for maintaining healthy environment at household and community level. In short women can be a role model to her family members for building good personal hygiene habits and upgrading sanitation.

She can have her influence in health, hygiene and sanitary condition at community level by way for forming or taking part in “community sanitation committee” with the help of Central/State and local bodies. They can bring facilities of individual or public toilets so as to prevent community people from open defecation with the help of community groups or local bodies. The women can run projects like wormi-composting and bio-gas plant or few livelihood options based on sanitation.

Women’s role in CBS programme-

Women are an integral part of the planning and implementation process. They are the main contributors for the success of Community Based Sanitation (CBS). Women are the managers of household “water-sanitation-health” and the improved sanitation facilities increases women’s productivity. The effectiveness of any WatSan projects is correlated to women’s participation.

The Community Based Sanitation Programme aim towards -

•        Improving healthy conditions

•        Promoting dignity of living

•        Enhancing quality of life

•        Environmental protection.


This community driven approach focuses on women’s participation to enhance their role from planning till post operation of created assets (infrastructure) at community level.

Involvement of community members in the planning, technology selection, implementation and operation and maintenance of the sanitation interventions provides them with management skills as well as more knowledge of the political and governance methodologies and implementation strategies. Self Help Groups or Community Based Organisations formed within the communities for sanitation provides members exposure to abstract forms of management such as decision-making, member selection for committees responsible for the condition of the facilities, information dissemination, and problem solving.


These new functions that the communities take up strengthen and empower them for community management. The formation of sanitation committees makes available organised structures for community engagement. Structures and procedures provide these committees, on behalf of the community, the ability and sanction for making decisions and recommendations. A sense of ownership and participation in the decision-making process forms a basis for sustainability of the established facilities.   As women are an essential component of this process in the CBS implementations, their involvement (as they are the usual caretakers in society) ensures that their needs and demands are taken care of. This provides them with a sense of inclusion and therefore they assume more responsibility towards the sanitation facility ensuring higher effectiveness and sustainability of the intervention.

Women are the early sufferers of poor community health. In the CBS programme, women can help generating demand for sanitation by expressing need for sanitation, mobilising communities and spreading awareness.

During Implementation of CBS, women play a role in selection of option (hardware & software), Infrastructure/design etc.

Towards Management / O&M of the services, women can help forming SHGs/CBOs, and in operation and maintenance and in lobbying with the local government.

She can be trained as Health and Hygiene Guides, or the Self Help Group by women can take up Operation & Maintenance and reuse of wastewater for agriculture. She can be trained to undertake School Sanitation programme also for benefit of CBS Programme to improve health of the overall community.

As a result of her proactive role in community management, she can come in the forefront and be in a leading position and achieve equality within community. She can look after children’s education and can create more household assets and improved infrastructure.


Women’s participation in WatSan is Global issue-

The importance of involving both women and men in the management of water and sanitation has been recognized at the global level, starting from

1977 United Nations Water Conference at Mardel Plata, the International Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade (1981-90) and the International Conference on water and the Environment in Dublin (Jan 1992), which explicitly recognizes the central role of women in provision, management and safeguarding of water. Reference is also made to the involvement of women in water management in AGENDA 21 and the Johannesburg plan of Implementation. . Moreover the resolution establishing the International Decade of Action, ‘water for life” (2005-2015) calls for women’s participation and involvement in water related development efforts. The Water for Life Decade coincides with the timeframe for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


The issues of particular concern are as under –

a.    Equitable access to water supply

b.    Equitable access to land rights and water for productive use

c.    Access to sanitation

d.    Capacity development

e.    Participation and equity in decision making

f.      Protection of resource base: indigenous perspective

g.    Resource mobilisation

h.    Private sector participation, pricing and the right to water

i.       Water conflicts, hazards and emergencies 

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