Partnerships between WASH and SGM organisations: a toolkit


17 May


It’s IDAHOBIT! And to celebrate we are sharing some practical tips, learning and considerations for water and WASH practitioners for building partnerships with sexual and gender minority organisations to improve #WASH outcomes for all. This guidance is drawn from insights from our partners and Rights Holder Organisations (RHOs) who fed into our ‘Partnerships for Transformation: Guidance for WASH and Rights Holder Organisations’ launched in late 2022.

While positive steps have been taken to ensure the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in WASH, there remains work to be done. Partnerships are key to doing better, our guidance can help water and WASH organisations and practitioners improve their engagement with people of diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions, and Sex Characteristics (aka LGBTIQ+) so that we can truly leave no one behind. 

Below, we have gathered together a great list of resources to help facilitate good partnerships between WASH organisations and sexual and gender minority organisations. This resources list can also be found on page 49 of guidance.


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Partnerships for Transformation: Guidance for WASH and Rights Holder Organisations

This guidance offers insights into effective partnerships between water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector organisations and rights holder organisations (RHOs). It provides practical recommendations for
effective collaboration in all types of partnerships and is designed to support organisations looking to begin, build or strengthen partnerships to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

Section 6 of this resource looks specifically at partnerships between WASH and SGM organisations including some of the drivers, benefits and challenges of partnerships between WASH and SGM organisations drawn from the research, literature and inputs from webinar participants.

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THE ONLY WAY IS UP: Monitoring and Encouraging Diverse SOGIESC Inclusion in the Humanitarian and DRR Sectors

"We, representatives of the rainbow community from across the Pacific and Asia and members of the Regional Advisory Group, came together and collaborated on this months-long project to understand how people with diverse SOGIESC fit into the humanitarian system in Cox’s Bazar, Vanuatu, and Mindanao. This Regional Advisory Group (RAG) was an opportunity to counter the on-going invisibility of our communities in the humanitarian system: through this collaborative process, we were not just participating, but using our lived experience, and the experiences of our communities, to shape the research, outputs, and recommendations."

This resource was authored by Emily Dwyer, Edge Effect and draws together insights from a range of organisations, research partners and people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics who contributed to the research and learning across the project. It was supported by the Swedish Government through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) who have funded this publication through the Empower: Women for Climate-Resilient societies programme. Empower is a partnership between UNEP.

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Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Self-Assessment Tool 

The (GESI SAT) represents the culmination of years of collaborative work across the Fund, and has been co-created by Water for Women and the Sanitation Learning Hub

It is a facilitation guide for WASH project managers, researchers and self-assessment facilitators to support individual and collective reflective practice on the extent and quality of gender equality and social inclusion work in WASH projects and organisations.

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Reverse partnership appraisal tool for SGM rights groups

This tool has been developed by Edge Effect, You can contact Edge Effect directly if you'd like to learn more.




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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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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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 

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...

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Photo: The New Humanitarian

“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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