Sylvia Cabus on Gender Mainstreaming in Water and Sanitation Programming

Employees of the Sohag Water and Wastewater Company in Egypt undertake training exercises to improve their GIS mapping skills for tracking the location of identified leaks in water pipelines. Photo credit: Water and Development Alliance

In 2017, the U.S. Government released its first-ever Global Water Strategy. Among its strategic objectives is expanding water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) access for women and girls. This access is critical to “preserving basic dignity, improving access to education and economic opportunities, and reducing gender-based violence.”

In its latest podcast episode, Global Waters Radio explores the connection between gender and water with the help of Sylvia Cabus, the Senior Gender Advisor for USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment.

Cabus delves into the many ways women’s lives are uniquely burdened by water and sanitation insecurity. For instance, women often bare the brunt of water-related tasks in the household and in agricultural work. When their access to water improves, women have more time to engage in public life, politics, and income-generating activities. 

Water-related issues also disproportionately prevent young girls from going to school. Building gender sensitive latrines, expanding access to sanitary napkins, and combating bullying of girls by educating adolescent boys in menstrual hygiene management are all methods to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, is able to stay in school.  

The benefits of expanding WASH access for women can be widespread, so long as women have a say in the changes being made. 

“We need to be careful about using our resources and making sure that the community—and women and girls especially—have the voice in articulating how they would like to participate in the water sector as entrepreneurs, or as users, or advocates,” Cabus said. 

Listen to the full podcast:

By Elise Zaidi, USAID/E3 Bureau Water Office’s Water CKM Project