1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Empowering Women and Girls through Access to Public Services Including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Date: 14 Mar 2019

  • Time: 13:15 - 14:45
  • Location: Ex-Press Bar, UN General Assembly Building, 405 East 42nd Street, New York, NY
  • Counterpart(s): Permanent Mission of Singapore to the UN in New York, Permanent Mission of South Africa to the UN in New York, Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
  • Project Title: Linking Social Protection and Human Rights

Empowering Women and Girls through Access to Public Services Including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
UNRISD is participating in two official side events at the 2019 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63).

•Empowering Women and Girls through Access to WASH (this page)
•We Want Equal Access! Austerity Politics vs. Feminist Activism

This event will feed into the priority theme for CSW63: “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.

The lack of access to WASH — water, sanitation and hygiene — services is an impediment that affects human health, and women’s mobility and participation in education and in the work force. Inadequate WASH services, especially in schools, workplaces, health centres and public facilities, inhibit women and girls’ enjoyment of the rights to education, decent working conditions, public participation and health, and also leads to stunting in children.


At this event, experts from international organizations, governments and civil society will:

  • Examine the role of and challenges faced by states in delivering WASH as a public service
  • Share best practices and lessons learned from WASH programmes in different countries
  • Contribute to the global policy debate around the importance of access to WASH as a public service
  • Draw attention to the importance of addressing WASH in international fora as a cross-cutting issue


According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as recently as 2017, 2.3 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation services, while 892 million people worldwide still practiced open defecation. A basic drinking water service was not accessible to 844 million people, while 263 million people spent over 30 minutes round-trip to collect drinkable water. Of the 159 million people who continued to fetch drinking water directly from surface water sources, 58 percent resided in sub-Saharan Africa.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1963) explicitly “recognizes the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance” (Article 9). This right also encompasses access to necessary goods and services, including water and sanitation as outlined in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ General Comment No. 19 on the right to social security.

States are responsible for making goods and services — including water, sanitation and hygiene — universally available and accessible. Yet, although the UN General Assembly officially recognized water and sanitation as a right in 2010, women and girls (as well as many men and boys) still do not enjoy full access in many countries.

This event aims to advance the public discussion on WASH services as a key priority and determinant for women’s empowerment.


Panellists OrganizationPresentation
Alice Ngo NjikiMHM Trainer, WASH Division, Ministry of Water and Energy (Cameroon)The Role of the State in Delivering WASH Services: Challenges and Successes
Dunja KrauseResearch Officer, UNRISDThe Role of Public Policies in Delivering WASH-Related Services
Pr CharyDirector, Administrative Staff College of IndiaToilets for Women in Warangal: Adapting Facilities to Respond to Women and Girls' Needs
tbdWaterAid MalawiFemale-Friendly Community Toilets: Experiences from the Field
His Excellency Ambassador Burhan GafoorPermanent Representative of Singapore to the UN in New York

Keynote speaker

Barthabile Dlamini, Minister of Women in the Presidency, South Africa


Sue Coates, Executive Director, WSSCC

Photo credit: "Pumping Water" by Alex Proimos (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).