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Violence against women and girls

One in three women will experience physical, sexual or emotional violence.
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It is a complicated problem, but clean water and safe toilets are a key part of the solution in the developing world.

The issue explained

In many communities where we work, women and girls report experiences or fear of physical and sexual violence, including rape and multiple forms of harassment, while walking for water, while looking for a place to go the toilet out in the open, and while attempting to use communal latrine blocks. Many girls report feeling particularly unsafe at latrine blocks on school grounds, where bullying, harassment, and even rape are all too common occurrences that can sometimes lead to girls dropping out altogether.


During times of crisis, such as natural disasters or armed conflict, women and girls are most likely to be displaced from their homes. This displacement makes them more vulnerable to violence. Lack of access to basic infrastructure, especially nearby sources of safe and clean drinking water and safe, secure latrines, further increases vulnerability to physical and sexual violence again.


It is clear that violence against women and girls (VAWG) has many consequences. From increased vulnerability and disease to unintended pregnancy, depression and reduced economic productivity. VAWG is a severe human rights and public health crisis worldwide. Increasing access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene cannot solve the problem, but it can help to reduce vulnerability felt by many women and girls in the world’s poorest countries and communities.


Our approach

Ending violence against women and girls requires significant changes in gender and cultural norms, policies and enforcement worldwide. It is a multisectoral approach, and WaterAid is just one member of this broad global community.


We are guided by Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to increase gender equality, by ending all forms of violence against women and girls. To this end, we seek to ensure all of our staff and our partners in the WASH sector understand the dynamics of VAWG, are able to support colleagues and community members who have experienced violence, and are mindful of the importance of ensuring our programs and advocacy help end VAWG rather than unknowingly creating vulnerability.


One way we do this is with the Gender, Violence and WASH Toolkit.The Tookit is used to train our staff worldwide as well as our colleagues in government and civil society, both within the WASH sector and in other focus areas of global health, development and humanitarian response.


WaterAid is a member of the Global Call to Action on Protection from Gender Based Violence in Emergencies.We are also active with the Everywhere workstream of Every Woman Every Child , a group of UN agencies, governments, and civil society organizations who are seeking to improve the response to complex humanitarian situations and ensure smoother transitions from development, through crisis response and back to sustainable development. In both cases, the importance of well-designed WASH policies and programs that respond to the needs and views of women and girls are critical for ensuring the risk of violence is reduced and the opportunity for health and well-being is increased.


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