Why gender matters in the solution towards safe sanitation? Reflections from rural India

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Publication Author

Khanna, T. & Das, M.

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Publication issues/theme

Economic Opportunity & Security

Publication Title

Global Public Health

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While the topic of women and water, sanitation and hygiene is a widely accepted concern among academics and activists, it continues to be an issue in developing countries with serious consequences. Based on a qualitative research conducted in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, the paper affirms that sanitation issues for women and girls are compounded by inequitable gender norms that put them at greater risk of experiencing violence and multiple health vulnerabilities. Women, despite having a high demand for safe toilet facilities, continue to practise unsafe sanitation.

The findings highlight the role of three structural constraints as the key factors influencing toilet construction and use: poverty, inadequate sanitation policy and its implementation and gender-based power dynamics at the household level. The paper concludes by emphasising the relevance of engendering sanitation programmes and policies by involving women and girls in the planning process to ensure that dignified and gender-sensitive sanitation solutions are developed. The paper also stresses the need to have measures for strengthening and effectively implementing a sanitation policy for the poor and for programmes to work with both men and women to address gender power relations which influence toilet adoption and use.