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Mainstreaming gender in the WASH sector: dilution or distillation?

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journal contribution
posted on 26.05.2017, 14:40 by Julie Fisher, Sue Cavill, Brian Reed
The way women’s issues have been conceptualized and acted on in the context of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has changed over the past four decades. The discourses and trends in development studies - from the Women in Development approach of the 1970s to Gender and Development in the 1980s - were mirrored in the WASH sector. The WASH sector has contributed to, and been shaped by, debates on women’s needs and, latterly, on gender perspectives based on a combined argument for equity and efficiency. In addition, in the last decade, the WASH sector has developed its own distinctive initiatives, such as menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and recently, specific WASH considerations relating to gender-based violence (GBV). This paper assesses whether the result of this sector-specific response has been a dilution or distillation of gender issues. It concludes that the WASH sector has not disregarded the goals of women’s empowerment and gender equality; rather, it has contributed to understandings of how resources – such as infrastructure and services - underpin that empowerment. This allows an important recognition of the value and impact of WASH sector priorities and actions for the wider wellbeing of women.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

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Gender and Development


FISHER, J., CAVILL, S. and REED, B., 2017. Mainstreaming gender in the WASH sector: dilution or distillation? Gender and Development, 25 (2), pp. 185-204.


Taylor and Francis © Oxfam


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Gender and Development on 11 July 2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13552074.2017.1331541.