Stronger systems for inclusive and sustainable WASH

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Learning series on systems strengthening in 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.

In 2021, Water for Women partners began to explore systems strengthening in WASH through a targeted learning agenda initiative by considering two primary learning questions:

  • How do Water for Women partners interpret, frame, understand and engage with WASH systems?
  • What changes is Water for Women contributing to in (local and national) WASH systems and how does this change happen?

These learning products emerge from discussions under this initiative, which reiterates that WASH systems are made up of – and exist to benefit – people. 

A series of four learning notes focus on different areas of systems strengthening and are being published by Water for Women under the title, stronger systems for inclusive and sustainable WASH. All available publications can be accessed below. The series will also culminate in a Learning Brief that will be available in early 2023.


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Learning note one: Engaging with the people and actors within WASH systems

  • 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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Learning note two: Leveraging finance for more equitable and sustainable WASH

Sufficient and appropriate financing, one of the building blocks of
the WASH system, is essential to inclusive and sustainable WASH
services. This learning note, the second in the series, explores WASH financing as a critical component of the WASH system.

It presents lessons from across Water for Women civil society organisation projects and through the examples of seven project case studies.


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Learning note three: Shifting WASH systems towards greater equity and sustainability through sector planning, monitoring and review

Sector planning, monitoring and review (PMR) enables WASH
systems to realise WASH rights and ensure that no one is left behind.
PMR can provide rhythm, enable collaboration, and drive learning,
reflection and improvement. PMR also offers useful case studies of
how change happens within WASH systems.

This learning note brings together reflections from Water for Women partners on how PMR contributes to systems change.



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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 these resources.

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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