UN Women and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council in partnership to improve access to hygiene and sanitation for women and girls
Louga, 9 March 2014 – On the margins of International Women’s Day commemorations across Senegal and West and Central Africa, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women) and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) have formed an official partnership. The aim is to take action and to strengthen policies in health, hygiene and sanitation in order to contribute to improving economic and social living conditions for women and girls in West and Central Africa.
The programme was launched during a ceremony in Louga, in northern Senegal. It will directly affect women, who are the main users and managers of water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa. The programme will be regional in scope. More specifically, it will cover Senegal, Niger and Cameroon, as well as Benin, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo through ECOWAS, the Economic Community Of West African States.
Equity and inclusion are key areas WSSCC’s work and an essential part of the UN Women mandate. They are among the main priorities of WSSCC, which has menstrual hygiene management as one its flagship programmes.
“Women must be involved in the decision-making processes. They must be equipped and informed, and must have areas for managing their personal hygiene. In this regard, sanitation is an entry point for their empowerment. It will allow them to pursue their education and, later, to be more productive in working areas that are clean and have proper facilities,” said Archana Patkar, WSSCC Programme Manager for Networking & Knowledge Management.
Lack of equity and inclusion are among the most serious obstacles to achieving the goals set by governments for water, sanitation and hygiene. In terms of service access and use, significant inequalities remain between rural and urban areas, marginalized and excluded groups, and the most vulnerable people.
Women represent one of the most marginalized groups. Lack of sanitation has harmful consequences for their health, education and environment. For women, in addition to a lack of privacy and dignity, there are also serious effects on their reproductive and maternal health. These are due to poor management of menstrual hygiene, faecal-oral contamination, and diseases caused by various factors including a lack of infrastructure and lack of appropriate information and facilities.
In delivering UN Women’s Executive Director message at the occasion of International Women’s Day, Dr Josephine Odera, UN Women Regional Director for West and Central Africa stressed on the importance of sanitation and hygiene as part of women’s access to health “this partnership comes just at the right moment. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day reminds us that equality for women is progress for all. That is valuable for all sectors. The water, hygiene and sanitation sector is a key sector. Outcomes can be achieved through programmes like this, with gender-specific budgets and greater awareness-raising.”
In 2014, “some 2.5 billion people around the world, approximately one third of the world’s population, still do not have access to toilets. The number of people practising open defecation fell by 244 million to 1.04 billion in 2011.”1 In sub-Saharan Africa, that figure continues to increase. Throughout Africa, over 25 per cent of the population practices open defecation. In Cameroon, the figure is 6 per cent, compared with 17 per cent in Senegal and 78 per cent in Niger.
The figures cited in this press release come from the 2013 report of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. They can be found by following this link:http://www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMPreport2013.pdf