Gender Equality & Empowerment

Investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment can unlock human potential on a transformational scale, including addressing global water and sanitation challenges.

Why it Matters

Water is an entry point to advance core democratic values around equality, transparency, accountability, women’s empowerment, and community organization. Across much of the developing world, women are responsible for finding, providing, and managing water for their families and gardens—in addition to their responsibilities related to crop production and livestock care. In poor rural areas in particular, improved access to safe water can reduce the time women and girls spend collecting water, increasing girls’ attendance at school, and enabling women to help generate new streams of household income. For that reason, the Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014 calls for “making improvements on a per capita basis on the health and educational opportunities available to women as a result of increased access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.” 

USAID’s Approach

The long-term effectiveness of USAID’s investments can be further enhanced when women are empowered to determine and implement the best solutions, programs are targeted to specifically meet the needs of women and girls, and men’s roles and responsibilities are also taken into account. Connections between water, sanitation, and hygiene and gender equality extend to maternal and newborn health, school attendance for girls, vulnerability to violent behavior and poor self-esteem, and women’s economic empowerment.

USAID seeks to ensure that women are empowered to effectively advocate for their perspectives and priorities, and that they are able to fully engage as managers, partners, and entrepreneurs in water-related activities and enterprises. Missions can draw upon guidance provided in the USAID Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy (2012) for integrating gender equality objectives into project design and receiving technical support from gender advisors when developing and implementing water programs. USAID’s gender policy aims to improve the lives of citizens around the world by advancing equality between females and males, and empowering women and girls to participate fully in and benefit from the development of their societies.

As a result of USAID programs, women and girls around the world are benefiting from access to improved water and sanitation services, and promotion of key hygiene behaviors.