During the global COVID-19 pandemic, the discrimination and exclusion faced by sexual and gender minorities (SGM) has been exacerbated.


In the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, we are striving to leave no one behind so that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be fully realised. Therefore it is our responsibility to ensure access to WASH for all, while upholding the voice, dignity and agency of the most marginalised in the community.

Water for Women, in collaboration with Edge Effect, has developed a guidance note to help the WASH sector make this a reality for people from sexual and gender minority (SGM) groups, who are even more marginalised during these challenging times.

Furthermore, this crisis provides an opportunity for transformation: organisations should reflect upon engagement with SGM communities, and ask how recovery and post-COVID-19 programs can better address the rights, needs and strengths of sexual and gender minorities.

Below, we give you the first look at this new resource along with a selection of others which are a must read to help the WASH sector embed SGM inclusion in all COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 responses.


“Access to healthcare is just one of the rights denied to us right at birth. COVID-19 may have closed doors for you, but for us, those doors were always bolted shut.”

Lost in Translation: the trans community and COVID-19 by IRC



Sexual and Gender Minorities and COVID-19: Guidance for WASH delivery

Prepared by Edge Effect (SGM Inclusion Advisors to Water for Women) and Water for Women, this guidance note has been developed to address the lack of resources specific to sexual and gender minority inclusion and WASH in COVID-19 responses.

During COVID-19, the discrimination and exclusion faced by sexual and gender minorities (SGM) has been amplified. This guidance note has been developed to help our partners and the broader WASH sector actively support sexual and gender minorities so that they are not left behind in COVID-19 WASH responses.

This guidance note covers:

  • How SGM inclusive is your program?
  • Root causes of discrimination, violence and exclusion faced by SGM communities
  • Key considerations for SGM inclusion
  • Additional actions for specific WASH and COVID-19 interventions

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Tip: see the reference list on page nine for further reading and resources



The COVID-19 crisis is having specific impact on people with diverse SOGIESC (aka LGBTIQ+ people). Donors and aid organisations can address this by ensuring that COVID-19 humanitarian and development programs recognise people with diverse SOGIESC as a group with rights, needs and strengths, and by supporting diverse SOGIESC CSOs and community-based responses.

LGBTIQ+ people need safe and dignified health care, protection from safety and security risks resulting from movement restrictions, and assistance to overcome loss of livelihoods. In many instances, these challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ people during the COVID-19 crisis are exacerbated by entrenched legal, social and economic inequalities

This paper was produced by Edge Effect through communication with LGBTIQ+ organisations, and from public sources including statements and media reports. 

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ASPIRE Guidelines on COVID-19 response and recovery free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

The UN Secretary-General has noted that “COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the vulnerability of the least protected in society. It is highlighting deep economic and social inequalities and inadequate health and social protection systems that require urgent attention as part of the public health response. Women and men, children, youth and older persons, refugees and migrants, the poor, people with disabilities, persons in detention, minorities, LGBTI people, among others, are all being affected differently. We have an obligation to ensure everyone is protected and included in the response to this crisis.”

This in depth paper has been prepared by Victor Madrigal-BorlozIndependent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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LGBTQ+ people left out by exclusionary COVID-19 aid practices 

by Sam Ritholtz, Doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, researching LGBTQI+ experiences of conflict and displacement // Photo credit: The New Humanitarian

Rhed* and her partner Salyn* were denied COVID-19 food aid from their city in the Philippines because lesbian couples don’t count as a “family” in the eyes of the local government. Luckily, their housemates and extended family shared their food with them.

They are just two of the countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ+) people around the world currently excluded from pandemic relief efforts because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity...

Read full article

“On normal days, trans people can’t access proper healthcare. During the pandemic it’s even worse, I don’t know what I would do if I got infected with COVID-19. I’m scared.” 


Vulnerability Amplified: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBTIQ people

In this pioneering report from OutRight Action International documents the effects of the pandemic on LGBTIQ people.

While the COVID-19 pandemic leaves no country and no individual unaffected, drawing on almost 60 rapid research interviews conducted with LGBTIQ people in 38 countries from all regions of the world, the report overwhelmingly shows that the challenges faced by LGBTIQ people as a result of the virus and surrounding containment measures are specific and amplified compared to the broader population. This includes:

  • Disruptions in accessing health care
  • Elevated risk of domestic and family violence 
  • Social isolation and increased anxiety 
  • Scapegoating, societal discrimination and stigma 
  • Abuse of state power 
  • Concerns about organizational survival 

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Stepping Up: Ensuring sexual and gender minorities are not left behind

The Water for Women Fund gender and social inclusion (GESI) framework includes SGM inclusion, alonGESIde inclusion of people with disabilities and more conventional approaches to gender inclusion.
Specifically on WASH, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation has also highlighted issues including “access to sanitation, menstrual hygiene and toilets for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming people and an increased risk of gender based violence.” 

This Learning Brief, 'Stepping Up: Ensuring sexual and gender minorities are not left behind' aims to advance the Fund’s collective learning on SGM issues and inclusion by reflecting on the discussions throughout the Systems Strengthening for Inclusive WASH learning event held in December 2019 in Nepal.



Header photo by CFAR

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