Accelerating action for equality - World Water Day 2023

A female Solomon Islands teacher sits on her desk at a school, staring straight at the camera

"When the WASH program came in it improved us teachers and also the learners and the students. Because they came here with the trainings, we now know the importance of hand washing, the importance of WASH in schools" says Constance, Head Teacher at Jeta School. (Plan International Solomon Islands)

Accelerating change starts with gender equality


Today is World Water Day, with the theme this year of ‘Accelerating Change’ underscoring the urgent need for action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We are already well into the fourth year of the Decade of Action, but the world is not on track and fast running out of time to achieve the SDGs. Meanwhile, we are witnessing first-hand the devastating consequences of climate-change on communities across the world, with increasing and extreme weather events such as flooding, cyclones and extreme heat having a disproportionate impact on those who are most vulnerable and currently least empowered to act, including women and girls, people with disabilities, people from sexual and gender minority groups and the poor.

As we look to the United Nations Water Conference from 22-24 March 2023 and the new Water Action Agenda, acceleration and improved impact to progress SDG 6 – clean water and sanitation for all  and other water-related goals is now more vital than ever. As a cross-cutting goal, SDG 6 is foundational to realising all 17 SDGs.

But SDG 6 will not be achieved without a concerted effort by governments and the development sector to put more emphasis and resources towards inclusive water resources management (WRM) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

More than two billion people still live without safely managed drinking water, including 1.2 billion people who lack even a basic level of service. Poor sanitation continues to perpetuate a vicious cycle of disease and poverty and is a major contributing factor to the alarmingly high number of deaths of children under five years of age, as well as the high levels of malnutrition found in countries where open defecation is widespread.


A graphic promoting this a world water day event

Did you catch our virtual World Water Day virtual event this morning?

Catch the highlights on Twitter

Inclusive water and WASH are critical connectors for resilience, equipping communities to adapt and respond to increasing climate hazards.

We can get SDG 6 back on track by accelerating gender equality and including diverse and First Nations/Indigenous voices and programs targeted at empowering women and marginalised groups. Pro-actively supporting the voices of women, First Nations people and people from marginalised communities in water and WASH systems is one of the most effective pathways towards a more climate-resilient world.

Enabling diverse perspectives in decision-making strengthens prospects for more holistic and sustainable solutions to climate-related issues at all levels – from global to local.

In order to achieve water and sanitation for all by 2030, we must:

  • Accelerate gender equality
  • Accelerate equitable systems change
  • Accelerate social norms change


Our latest publications

Water for Women partners have valuable knowledge and lessons to share with the global WASH sector, we collaborate on a range of thematic areas through our Learning Agenda and are pleased to launch our latest resources on climate finance for the WASH sector in the Asia-Pacific region.

A blue graphic with thumbnail covers of our new resources and the words 'Just Launched!'

Inclusive, climate-resilient WASH goes beyond infrastructure to ensure that solutions meet the needs of the most marginalised and can continue functioning in the face of climate hazards.

Accessing climate adaptation financing for WASH projects has been a challenge for civil society organisations (CSOs) due to a number of procedural, design and systemic barriers. This series of briefs on climate finance for the WASH sector in the Asia and Pacific region identify the main barriers to climate finance access, highlight proven pathways to funding and also recommend ways for CSOs and funders (primarily donor governments and multi-lateral development banks) to improve access to funds for climate-resilient WASH. They cover the Pacific region, as well as more country specific briefs for CambodiaIndiaIndonesiaPakistan and Papua New Guinea.


Explore our work

Across the Asia-Pacific region, Water for Women partners are working with diverse representatives across communities, governments, civil society, rights holder organisations, and actors in the water and WASH sectors to accelerate action on SDG 6 and create transformative change for an equal and sustainable future.

So far, 3.4 million people have benefitted from greater access to WASH services through Water for Women projects.


You can explore some of our recent project updates below.

A picture of a girl washing her face n Pakistan

Women-led Inclusive WASH Jirgas building resilience in Pakistan


Across three districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, including Buner, Peshawar and Swat, IRC has been working with communities, government stakeholders and duty bearers to foster inclusive decision-making around water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to meet the needs of everyone in the community, and to strengthen the governance systems that underpin them. And since commencing in 2018, the changes have been transformative.

More than 159,720 people now have improved access to WASH, including over 78,200 women and girls and 11,170 people with disabilities.



A WASH project officer helps students to wash their hands at a school for disabled children in Indonesia

Building resilience through inclusive WASH in Indonesia

These children are participating in a handwashing with soap demonstration with support from a sanitarian from the local community health centre, or ‘puskesmas,’ and teachers at their school for children with disabilities in Manggarai, Indonesia. This activity was part of a wider health promotion initiative supported by Plan International Australia and Yayasan Plan International Indonesia through their Water for Women project, WASH and Beyond: Transforming Lives in Eastern Indonesia.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic elevated awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap for disease prevention, just five years ago - like an estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide - this was not possible for many living in the project districts of Manggarai and Sumbawa.


A group of women are discussing WASH needs as they sit on a beach in their rural PNG community.

Women at the forefront of inclusive WASH transformation in PNG


"Yumi olgeta wankain" - we are all equal. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), women, young people and people with disabilities are often excluded from decision-making. At both household and community levels, embedded social norms about household responsibilities of women, like water collection, cooking and cleaning, in particular limit their ability to engage in community leadership roles.


But over the past five years, Water for Women's project Resilient WASH in the Islands Region of PNG with Plan International and Live & Learn Environmental Education (LLEE), supported by the Australian Government, has been working to change this.


A group of children gather around a water point with safe and clean running water in their community in Timor-Leste

Securing sustainable and inclusive-WASH in Timor-Leste

Despite progress made in recent years in increasing access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Timor-Leste, this has been especially challenging in many rural and remote areas. Disparities in WASH access and in the quality of WASH services between rural and urban communities, and for people from marginalised groups including women, people with disabilities and the poor, have meant that not everyone has benefited equally.


But over the past five years, the Water for Women project Beyond Inclusion: realising gender transformational change and sustainable wash systems with WaterAid has been working to improve this situation.


A woman shows off a new water tank for her community in Fiji

Women at the centre of inclusive water and WASH in Fiji


Through Habitat for Humanity’s Water for Women project, the inclusion of women within community planning activities and school engagements has fostered more equitable and inclusive decision-making processes, leading to paradigm shifts in both men and women within the communities. 

In communities across the Ra and Ba provinces of Fiji, it was not uncommon to have water supplies rationed for up to three hours a day during the dry season, and to rely on carted water or have to resort to using lower quality water sources for daily water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs. And although women held responsibility for household water and WASH tasks, the overall representation of women on community water committees was only around 21%.


A Vietnamese woman bends over to show off her newly installed water tap.

Women ‘change agents’ for climate-resilience in Vietnam


Women are the driving force behind a collaborative partnership that has been building community climate resilience across rural Vietnam. Supported by Australia through the Water for Women project Women Led Output Based Aid (WOBA), during the past five years Thrive Networks / East Meets West has been partnering with provincial Women’s Unions to improve access to inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for some of the poorest and most marginalised households in the five provinces of Hoa Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Ben Tre.

More than 104,740 people living in the five project provinces now have improved access to WASH, including over 52,580 women and girls and 5,000 people with disabilities.


A climate-resilient future needs #WomenUpstream

Women are at the forefront of change - Recognising and valuing the critical contributions of women, including Indigenous women, as decision-makers, stakeholders, farmers, educators, carers and experts across sectors and at all levels is key to a climate-resilient future. Recognition and meaningful action on this front is a “game-changer” and the key to successful and sustainable solutions to climate change and achieving SDG6.

Climate change will escalate risks and exacerbate impacts, particularly on vulnerable populations. Inclusive and equitable water and WASH are critical connectors for community resilience, equipping communities to adapt and respond to increasing climate hazards.

On World Water Day we call for diverse perspectives in decision-making to strengthen prospects for more holistic and sustainable solutions to climate-related issues at all levels – from global to local.

Contact Us