Learning Note One: Engaging with the people and actors within WASH systems

Front cover of this publication with a systems strengthening icon, title and introductory text in tones of blue

Stronger systems for inclusive and sustainable WASH

Water for Women aims to improve the health, gender equality and wellbeing of Asian and Pacific communities through strengthened national and subnational water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector systems with greater emphasis on gender and social inclusion, safely managed WASH and water security.

This learning note emerges from discussions under Water for Women’s systems strengthening Learning Agenda initiative, which reiterates that WASH systems are made up of – and exist to benefit – people. We present lessons learnt from 20 Water for Women civil society organisation (CSO) led projects about what it means to strengthen WASH systems, viewed through the lens of systems as networks of people and actors.

This is the first in a series of four learning notes that will be published by Water for Women on Stronger systems for inclusive and sustainable WASH.

Included in this learning note:

  • What are we learning about the drivers and barriers to change in WASH systems?
  • What are we learning about strengthening GEDSI in WASH systems?
  • Practical lessons for CSOs seeking to influence change in WASH systems


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Citation: Water for Women. (2022). Stronger systems for inclusive and sustainable
WASH. Learning Note One: Engaging with the people and actors within WASH systems.


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Water for Women acknowledges Fraser Goff of WaterAid Australia for his leadership of this collaborative Learning Agenda initiative and the authorship of this report.

All Water for Women partners contributed extensively to this initiative in terms of scoping, sharing learnings and the synthesis of findings. We also recognise their leadership and support for progress towards strengthening inclusive, sustainable and resilient WASH systems across Asia and the Pacific.

This work was supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Special thanks to the members of the advisory group for this Learning Agenda initiative, who guided the initiative’s development, coordinated and led learning events and helped to synthesise the lessons learnt: Anwar Zeb and Junaid Khan of IRC Pakistan, Gabrielle Halcrow of SNV, Juliet Willetts of the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, Lien Pham of Thrive Networks/East Meets West Foundation; and Tom Rankin from Plan International Australia.

Thanks to WaterAid Australia colleagues who have supported the Learning Agenda initiative: Chelsea Huggett, Clare Hanley, David Shaw and Edmund Weking. Thanks also to the members of the Water for Women Fund Coordinator team, who played a substantial role in the development and delivery of the initiative and this learning note: Kate Orr, Matthew Bond, Alison Baker, Joanna Mott, Mia Cusack and Bianca Nelson Vatnsdal.

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