WSSCC at the Commission on the Status of Women


This week, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) will join passionate gender activists, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities at the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 14 to 24 March 2016.

On 18 March 2016, WSSCC will participate in a side event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations in New York, which will address the role of WASH in women’s empowerment and sustainable development. Speakers will share experiences building on data and figures from recent studies carried out in West and Central Africa and South Asia. Organised by WSSCC, the event will also feature contributions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and UN Women. In addition, the session will explore the role of governments in strengthening national mechanisms and prioritizing the issue of gender. From Africa to South Asia, panellists will explain how they are transforming policies to encourage inclusion, leveraging local resources and improving accountability mechanisms including national and regional reporting systems.

Key speakers include:

  • Her Excellency Ms Mariama Sarr, Gender Minister of Senegal
  • His Excellency Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative, Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York
  • Her Excellency Anne Lammila, Ambassador for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Finland
  • Ms Carolina Wennerholm, Lead Policy Specialist Gender Equality, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

On 14 March, WSSCC participated in the launch of a policy brief on emerging issues in gender and water, sanitation and hygiene, commissioned by UN Women with the support of the Governments of Singapore and Germany. The launch event provided all relevant stakeholders an opportunity to discuss, at the sidelines of the CSW, the nexus between WASH and gender equality and women’s empowerment and the key issues in the policy brief, and to commit to implement the appropriate recommendations to improve WASH policies for women and girls.

At the event, Professor Isha Ray from the University of California - Berkeley gave a passionate presentation of the barriers women and girls face when it comes to sanitation, and then stated "this why the work that Archana Patkar and the WSSCC are doing is so important." Lizette Burgers from UNICEF also cited the WSSCC-commissioned research by Robert Dreibelbis and the SHARE consortium on psychosocial stress as an important element in developing programming that responds to the needs of women and girls.

More than five years have passed since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (28 July 2010). At the close of the MDG period, the water target was achieved but sanitation was severely off track with women and girls continuing to bear the major burden, shame and indignity of poor sanitation and hygiene services. The human right to water entitles everyone without discrimination to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use. The human right to sanitation entitles everyone without discrimination to physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, which is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable, which provides for privacy and ensures dignity. Sanitation is defined as a system for the collection, transport, treatment, disposal or reuse of human excreta and associated hygiene.

It is important to think of the rights to water and sanitation as separate rights because although the human rights to water and sanitation are closely related, there are also important differences. Privacy and dignity are of particular importance for the right to sanitation. When people do not feel that a toilet or latrine ensures that they can urinate, defecate and take care of menstrual hygiene in privacy and with dignity, it is highly likely that they will not use them with deleterious consequences.

Downloads - Side event on "Achieving Gender Equality through WASH" on 18 March 2016: