Critical Connections: Climate change response for inclusive WASH

A woman stands in front of a group of community members who are seated inside a building, it is a feedback workshop

A community feedback workshop (UTS-ISF) 

Rural communities in Manggarai, Indonesia and Liquiçá, Timor-Leste are increasingly confronted with extreme seasonality. Rainfall is predicted to become more intense and frequent in the wet season. In Manggarai, community members reported difficulty in access to waterpoints located at the base of hillsides during heavy rain, especially for the elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities. In Liquiçá, community members shared that heavy rain degraded the quality of their drinking water and caused an increase in illness. 

Climate projections suggest that dry season rainfall will reduce throughout southern Indonesia and Timor-Leste over coming decades. Community members in Manggarai explained that insufficient water to flush toilets in the dry season means some women and girls resort to open defecation and are consequently exposed to sexual harassment. In Liquiçá, the dry season causes primary water sources to dry up and forces people to collect water from more distant sources. Community members stated that this responsibility typically falls on women and girls, although some men collect water during extremely dry periods to alleviate their burden.


Building climate resilience through inclusive WASH interventions for all

Between 2018 and 2021, ISF-UTS, WaterAid Timor-Leste, WaterAid Australia, Plan International Indonesia and Plan International Australia partnered on the Climate Change Response for Inclusive WASH (CCRIW) research project. The project aimed to co-develop participatory, community-based activities that support women, men and people with disabilities to discuss how climate hazards affect rural water (in Timor-Leste) and rural sanitation (in Indonesia), and how local resources can be mobilised to respond to impacts.

For example, community members in Manggarai participated in an activity to assess the journey to a communal toilet block and how extreme wet and dry weather affects physical accessibility. Community members, including people with disabilities, walked to the communal toilet and noted potential obstacles that extreme weather creates along the way. Meanwhile, groups of women and men in Liquiçá participated in an activity in which they discussed household roles in managing WASH workloads and how these change when extreme weather is experienced. In both cases, community members then reflected on their own human, social, physical, financial and natural resources and how these can be mobilised to address the challenges they identified.

ISF-UTS is also developing a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), which will be publicly available by November 2022, to build the capacity of users to achieve climate resilience for inclusive WASH. The MOOC will train users on using the CCRIW materials, as well as theory about and approaches to WASH and climate change from elsewhere in the world.


Towards transformation: focusing on gender equality and social inclusion in support of climate resilience for all

The participatory, community-based activities developed in the CCRIW project draw attention to the unequal impact of climate change on WASH access and guide participants to consider how participation, inclusion and the negotiation of household and community roles can lead to more equitable solutions to climate issues.


Critical results for critical times: how inclusive WASH is contributing to more climate-resilient outcomes

The CCRIW approach helps CSOs and their government partners to assess how climate change affects WASH services, gender and inclusion outcomes, and use that information to inform local WASH planning. The activities developed in the project are easily implementable at the local level, do not require the use of sometimes unavailable and difficult-to-interpret climate data, and are adaptable to a range of rural contexts.

As a result, rural WASH implementers have improved access to tools that help them explore the climate change–WASH–GESI nexus in their communities and develop climate response interventions that provide more equitable benefits.


A blue graphic with the words and a thumbnail of the cover of this resource

Climate change disproportionately affects women, people living in extreme poverty, people with disabilities and socially marginalised groups, who often have little influence or control over resources or decisions that affect their communities. Social marginalisation, poverty and exclusion expose disadvantaged people to climate hazards.

However, women and marginalised groups have important knowledge and capabilities, as a result of this direct lived experience, that are critical to problem-solving and decision-making for climate-resilient WASH. Hence, gender and social transformation to strengthen these voices and reduce unequal vulnerabilities can be a powerful enabler of equitably strengthening resilience to climate change in the WASH sector.

For COP27, we are taking a look at working examples from Water for Women partners that are making the critical connections between climate resilience and inclusive WASH.


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