Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: a case study for the WASH sector


From 19 February to 9 March 2018, the 69th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) took place in Geneva. CEDAW is the body of 23 independent experts on women’s rights from around the world that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Through CEDAW, States submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures which they have adopted with respect to the convention.

While WSSCC’s mission is “to enable all people and especially women, girls and those living in vulnerable situations to practice the right to sanitation and hygiene across the course of their lives with dignity and safety,” CEDAW is an interesting case study for analysing the water, sanitation and hygiene issues through the gender perspective, says Anthony Dedouche, WSSCC Global Policy and Innovation Analyst, who has tracked the proceedings.

Indeed, the article 14 2. (h) of the overmentioned Convention states that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, shall ensure to such women the right:  To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.”

The exchanges and presentations in Geneva showed, for example, that Fiji’s constitution includes the right to sanitation, and is determined to reduce the disparity that exists between urban and rural sewerage services. In addition, new schools apply now the sanitation standard of 30 girls per toilet. This is a notable improvement for guaranteeing girls’ education, given that keeping girls at school is the challenge for a long-term empowerment of women and girls in the society. Suriname also focuses on disparities between urban and rural areas and the interior’s access to adequate public services such as clean water and sanitation, in particular for women. Finally, Marshall Islands is the only reviewed country referring to Menstrual Hygiene Management, within the emergency situation management, as a response to committee experts’ issues’ list.

‘It is very interesting to see that countries are reporting improvements on the implementation of human rights to water supply, sanitation and hygiene for women,’ says Dedouche.  ‘However, only 3 out of 8 country reports this year refer to sanitation and hygiene. We consider the WASH sector as a transversal issue for women’s empowerment and will continue to strengthen global advocacy for the inclusion of women and girls’ specific needs and vulnerability regarding the implementation of human rights to water and sanitation.’

Empowering rural women and girls is the theme of the 62nd CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) taking place from 12 to 23 March in New York. WSSCC will hold a side event the 20th of March to bring the attention of partners and practitioners on the strategic interest of the WASH component for women and girls empowerment, through the prism of Menstrual Hygiene Management. The Joint Programme with UN Women on Gender, Hygiene and Sanitation will present its results in West and Central Africa as well as the recommendations of the Joint Evaluation. Read more here.