Empowerment in the Water and Sanitation Sector


Sarah Dickin (Stockholm Environment Institute)

Bisung Elijah (Queen’s University)

IRC WASH (Netherlands)


UK AID DFID Through REACH OXFORD Accelerated Grant 2018 – 2019

Background and Objective

The overall aim of this project is to co-develop an ‘Empowerment in WASH index,’ as a tool to measure empowerment in the water and sanitation sector. This will involve developing indicators to better understand the relationship between empowerment and WASH-related outcomes, to identify gender imbalances and monitor progress. Local government agencies, NGOs, citizens’ organisation and development partners will be able to use the tool to assess and monitor gender issues related to their WASH programmes and shape them accordingly. In addition, this novel approach will provide data and research to contribute to informing policy-making related to achieving household water security in an equitable/gender-balanced way.

To achieve this aim we will address the following objectives:

  • To advance knowledge relating to empowerment in the WASH sector, including by investigating existing literature and survey tools;
  • To co-develop with stakeholders and pilot a household survey-based index tool ‘EWI’ to assess empowerment;
  • To build local capacity for the use of the tool for assessing the current situation and monitoring progress related to empowerment in WASH programmes, by training stakeholders, e.g. development organizations, local government authorities and citizens’ organizations,
  • To strengthen inclusive water and sanitation systems through district and national sectoral knowledge sharing and capacity building to drive change and innovation in addressing the challenges linked to empowerment, water and sanitation;
  • To share learning with REACH partners and global WASH community and identify opportunities for future adaptation, piloting and application of the tool in other contexts.

Study Sites

This project will focus on two study regions where poverty and water security challenges interact to threaten human wellbeing. The study regions are located in Asutifi North District in Ghana, and Banfora in Burkina Faso, where IRC is conducting projects to strengthen water and sanitation services and systems. In Banfora in South-West Burkina Faso, access to water supplies is around 54% and access to sanitation is extremely low. The Asutifi North district in Ghana experiences higher coverage levels, but many challenges remain, such as water quality and sustainability of services. The selected study sites will allow cross-country comparisons within a West African context, as well as regional comparison with data collected in the Central-East region of Burkina Faso


  • An initial scoping review will examine potential domains indicators of empowerment in the WASH sector, and assess the existing range of tools with proven success in different cultural settings.
  • Multi-stakeholder consultation workshops and concept mapping will be held in both study sites in West Africa to refine a group of empowerment domains and associated indicators
  • Piloting testing the survey based tool and development of an index
  • Cognitive assessment of question used in the survey
  • Training local stakeholder groups in Ghana and Burkina Faso on using the tool

For more information about this project, visit: https://www.empowerwash.org/