Gender Transformative Leadership in WASH during the Covid-19 Pandemic

The Gender Transformative Leadership in WASH during Covid19 pandemic learning brief cover

Learning brief & research report

"Gender transformative leadership seeks to cultivate individuals, including decision-makers, who empower themselves and their organizations to pay close attention to gender power structures and discriminatory practices - both formal and informal - in order to advance gender equity in their organizations as well as in the communities and constituencies they serve." UN Women via Jhpiego Corporation 2020.

What are some leadership qualities that may steer societies into having more resilient, sustainable and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) futures?

Delivering and safeguarding the right to water and sanitation is paramount. But during times of crises the right to water and sanitation – like many others rights – is placed at heightened risk. The decisions that leaders make, and the actions they take have lasting effects for social cohesion, stability and resilience; in the present and the future.  

The Gender Transformative Leadership in WASH during the Covid-19 Pandemic Learning Brief shares findings and reflections from the study of the same title, conducted by Water for Women partners SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney (ISF-UTS) in early 2021.

Gender transformative leadership in WASH strengthens inclusion and can positively influence wider social structures towards gender equality.

Gender transformative WASH leaders take many forms. They can be in formal positions of authority, or equally can be working within organisations and communities to influence norms and practices.

Learning from the experiences of leaders can inform WASH activities through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, towards inclusive and transformative outcomes.

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The Gender Transformative Leadership in WASH during Covid19 pandemic research report coverThe Gender Transformative Leadership in WASH during the COVID-19 Pandemic Research Report, conducted under the Water for Women Fund Beyond the Finish Line project, documents findings and reflections from the study, which explored how leaders are responding in the challenging time of COVID-19 to both ensure the needs of marginalised and vulnerable groups are represented and heard, and find ways to transform personal perspectives, norms, and systemic patterns towards gender equality.

"As we grapple with the pandemic-era changes, we now have the opportunity to make real change  happen in our communities and the sector." SNV / ISF-UTS 2021.

Taking a positive deviance approach, the study engaged with 19 leaders across Bhutan, Nepal and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) identified as positively contributing to gender transformations in the WASH sector.

The study took a transformative approach to research, committed to the idea of conducting research with - not on - leaders, and to facilitate celebration and reflection. The study considered interviewed leaders’ (i) personal values and traits; (ii) leadership style; (iii) actions; and (iv) outcomes, as influenced by a range of enablers and barriers.

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