New resources set to make WASH infrastructure design more inclusive
8 July 2022
More than 100 practitioners, policy makers, donors and government officials around the world in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) space came together recently for the launch of a new set of resources unlocking more inclusive ways to design water and sanitation infrastructure with informal settlement communities.
Based on data from the RISE experience of co-designing WASH infrastructure with Indonesian and Fijian communities, comes the Reflecting on water and sanitation infrastructure toolkit. The toolkit presents practical ways WASH practitioners can deliver gender- and socially-inclusive participatory approach to designing water and sanitation infrastructure in urban informal settlements, so that no-one gets left behind in the process.
Complementing the practical toolkit, a policy brief also distils years of RISE evidence to help governments, decision-makers and funders make policy decisions that support inclusive participatory design of water and sanitation infrastructure projects.
Vulnerable groups face disproportionate burdens
Ibu Fadiah Machmud, Chair of the Child Protection Institute in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, has more than a decade of experience advocating on child protection and gender mainstreaming. At the launch she explained how a lack of essential services disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable members of communities.
‘One in four people globally lack access to safe drinking water in their homes. The impacts are mostly felt by women, children and other vulnerable groups, many of whom have to collect water late at night,’ Ibu Fadiah said.
‘So, it’s very important for us to be informed, empathise with and deeply understand each of the different needs and abilities in order to design WASH initiatives and policies that involve all people with diverse differences.
‘This toolkit provides recognition, respect and room, that every individual and group actually has the knowledge, experience and creative suggestions if given the space and opportunity [to contribute to infrastructure design],’ Ibu Fadiah said.
Ibu Fadiah Machmud says different groups have the right to participate in infrastructure design and share their knowledge.
Shirleen Ali, Pacific Gender and Inclusion Senior Advisor at CARE Australia based in Fiji agreed that women and girls bear the greatest burden of WASH, but are often excluded from planning, delivering and monitoring WASH activities.
‘Providing access to clean water close to the home can dramatically reduce women’s workloads,’ Ms Ali pointed out. ‘It can not only free up time for other activities, but it can also enhance women’s roles and contributions to agricultural production, food security and business opportunities.
‘So access to WASH is crucial for poverty reduction, and also for achieving gender equality and social inclusion,’ Ms Ali said.
The toolkit: new thinking and approaches
Dr Dasha Moschonas from Monash University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, has led the production of the toolkit with RISE’s international teams – the culmination of four years of her PhD research on the RISE program.
An architect and expert in participatory design approaches, Dr Moschonas designed the toolkit to be flexible, revolving around reflective questions for WASH teams to ask themselves, to make sure they are considering values of equality and inclusivity when embarking on designing infrastructure with communities and within interdisciplinary teams.
‘Much of the water and sanitation infrastructure or technologies installed during “humanitarian” or “development” projects come from high-resource settings and is often – mistakenly – seen by implementers as “neutral” or “apolitical”,’ Dr Moschonas points out.
‘But when individuals or groups with certain identities are left out of the design process, practitioners run the risk of designing solutions that don’t work for everyone – and may actually cause harm.
‘The point of these resources is to bring diverse teams and diverse ideas together to genuinely reflect on inclusivity when designing WASH projects. That is the only way they can be successful,’ Dr Moschonas asserts.
Is this toolkit for you? Dr Moschonas says the resources can benefit everyone – from practitioners to funders and informal settlement residents.
Evidence accessible to all
The ‘Water for Women’ research – a sub-study within the RISE program – has been jointly led by Associate Professor Becky Batagol from Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Monash Faculty of Law in Australia, and Assistant Professor Sheela Sinharoy from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in the United States.
The toolkit, policy brief and other resources are designed for anyone around the world to access, and help deliver more inclusive and fairer water and sanitation projects.
They are free, and accessible in English and Indonesian, with key terms in iTaukei (native Fijian) and Fijian Hindi.
The research and resources are supported by the Australian Government’s Water for Women fund.
Visit www.reflect-on.org to learn how you can put these tools into action in your next WASH project.