WASH-GEM: a tool to explore the connections between gender equality and WASH

A colourful graphic of the five WASH-GEM domains of welbeing, resources, structures, agency and critical consciousness

Introducing the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene – Gender Equality Measure


Globally, women and girls often bear the responsibilities for WASH, including water collection, cleaning, cooking, and childcare. And consequently, poor WASH disproportionately affects women and girls.

Over the last ten years, researchers at the University of Technology Sydney - Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS-ISF) have been exploring the connections between gender and WASH. Qualitative evidence has shown that transformed gender dynamics are fundamental to inclusive and sustained WASH improvements. Likewise, that improvements in WASH can be a pathway to strengthened gender equality.

Building on this qualitative evidence, a team at UTS-ISF recently developed a tool to explore the connections between gender equality and WASH. This tool is called the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Gender Equality Measure – the WASH-GEM. The WASH-GEM can describe these connections and evaluate changes over time.


The WASH-GEM builds on a solid foundation of gender equality theory and practice and is comprised of five domains – Resources, Agency, Critical Consciousness, Structures, and Wellbeing. The WASH-GEM includes 17 themes across the five domains, covering aspects of WASH-related and beyond-WASH sub-domains. Themes are added together within each domain to create a group of five indices.


In this introductory video, researchers involved in the development of the WASH-GEM tool explain how it can assist practitioners and researchers in exploring gender outcomes associated with WASH programs, for both women and men.



The WASH-GEM was developed and piloted in 2019-2021 with iDE in Cambodia and SNV in Nepal, within the Water for Women Fund. The conceptual model for the WASH-GEM was developed through a collaborative process. It was informed by a review of relevant literature and through engagement with practitioners and specialists in the fields of gender, WASH, and international development. The tool has been tested and refined through three rounds of collaborative piloting in both countries.


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Researchers involved in the development of this tool recently published a paper which explores the conceptual foundations and domains of change of the WASH-GEM tool.


Women's Studies International Forum (March - April 2022)

The water, sanitation and hygiene gender equality measure (WASH-GEM): Conceptual foundations and domains of change

Authors: Naomi Carrard,Jess MacArthur,Caitlin Leahy,Simone Soeters,Juliet Willetts


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Highlights include

  • A feminist perspective strengthened design of a quantitative gender equality measure.

  • The measure explores gender equality associated with water, sanitation and hygiene.

  • A collaborative, iterative process informed five critical design considerations.

  • Domains are Resources, Agency, Critical consciousness, Wellbeing and Structures.

  • The measure offers a theoretically robust approach to measuring gendered change.


Congratulations to all involved in this achievement!

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