Leveraging Inclusive WASH for Empowerment (LIFE) 

Water for Women partners with International Rescue Committee (IRC) to implement the LIFE project in three districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan to reach an estimated 168,750* people


With a population of over 212 million, Pakistan is the world's sixth most populous country. Pakistan is also the world’s 36th most water-stressed country and faces several challenges when it comes to water safety, sanitation and hygiene practices:

16 Million (7.5%) people in Pakistan have no choice but to collect water from unsafe sources.


94 million (44%) do not having access to improved sanitation facilities. 

Nearly 40 million (19%) practice open defecation, with the vast majority of this figure (37 million) in rural areas. 

Pakistan has 3.7% of the world's children aged 0-5, but accounts for 11% of the under 5 mortality rate owing to diarrhoea and dysentery. 

The lack of access to safe drinking water, poor health and hygiene practices, weak governance and lack of participation of marginalised groups in decision making around Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is particularly acute in rural and remote areas of the country.

Communities are not necessarily aware of practices around water protection, nor do they have knowledge on where to seek such guidance and how to hold government authorities and service providers accountable.

Universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene is a key priority of Water for Women. 




Water for Women partners with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for the implementation of a multi-year project titled “Leveraging Inclusive WASH for Empowerment (LIFE)”.  The project plans to reach out to 168,758 people in 75 villages across three districts (Peshawar, Swat and Buner) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province of Pakistan. 

Regional map of Pakistan


In terms of increasing access to WASH services, the LIFE project will leverage the existing resources and capacities of the communities and line departments in a participatory manner, whereby communities map existing resources/services, identify gaps therein and suggest ways forward. The IRC and partners will link the communities with service providers and facilitate the dialogue process.

An intergenerational dialogue approach will be used to foster cross-generation sharing and learning. In a context where age hierarchy is at play, there is limited space for youth to voice their knowledge, opinions, and concerns. As we attempt to shake some cultural norms, we seek to foster intergenerational conversations, through a guided and methodological facilitation process, where young people can share their thoughts with and learn from senior community members, and vice versa. A mentorship program can be used to allow senior Transformation Facilitators and junior Transformation Facilitators to work together and support each other.

A rights-based approach will be followed with an understanding of how IRC, along with implementing partners, can bring systemic change to households, communities and institutions so that they can work towards sustained realisation of the rights of vulnerable groups. The community will be sensitised to how identity factors of a person, such as one’s sex, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability and so forth, impact access to services and participation levels in the decision-making process. 

In LIFE, vocational and life skill building sessions will serve as a culturally accepted entry point, increasing participation of such vulnerable groups as girls and women. These sessions will work toward not only building their life skills, but their ability to generate income and business skills, which are key to raising an individual’s status in homes and communities.

An illustrative approach to engaging the most vulnerable is our focus on outreach to girls. The LIFE project will focus on Madrassas, where girls already have opportunities to gather. Vocational training will be conducted at Madrassas, which are acceptable places among community and family members for girls to visit. Similar strategic approaches will be utilised in order to maximise engagement of the country’s other most vulnerable populations. 


“The unconventional program design approach of DFAT funded LIFE project of IRC allows for a good mix of strengthening both supply and demand sides of the WASH sector. Recognising water as a basic human right, the project employs a marginalised-centred social mobilisation strategy to generate demand with particular focus on addressing socio-cultural barriers that hinder access of the most marginalised and often excluded groups (particularly women, girls, PWDs, minorities and transgender community) to WASH services. 

On supply side, the provision of critical WASH services coupled with strong emphasis on institutional strengthening aim to improve inclusive WASH governance at provincial and district levels. Robust monitoring mechanisms supported by fully grounded social researches and knowledge management interventions help keep the project on track and allows for drawing lessons to make future programming client-centred and inclusive.”

- Adnan Bin Junaid, Country Director, International Rescue Committee (IRC) – Pakistan Program


The key objectives of this project are to deliver:

Objective 1: Inclusive and sustainable WASH Services

Objective 2: Improved inclusive WASH governance systems.

Objective 3: Inclusive decision making around WASH

The Theory of Change and the SDGs agenda calls for an integrated and holistic approach to WASH programming. IRC Pakistan aims to adopt UNICEF’s “WASH Community Graduation” approach, featuring a stepped strategy to take communities up the WASH ladder. The approach draws on the elements of the Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS) Plus programme to facilitate incremental progression, instead of a high-jump approach, towards achieving national and SDG targets for Pakistan. This is believed to ensure sustainability, enhanced community ownership and knowledge management as progress at each step will be assessed and documented.

This project will also:

  • deliver vocational/life skills training to 2,000 women and girls
  • 1,500 government representatives will receive technical advice and capacity building



 A water and WASH response is a COVID-19 response


In 2020, the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene was underscored as the globe grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from Australia's Partnerships for Recovery, our partners pivoted their projects and worked collaboratively to support countries in their COVID-19 responses and to embed COVID-19 preparedness into their WASH projects.


In Pakistan, IRC's COVID responses incorporated priorities from the COVID-19 National Action Plan, Pakistan Government and WHO COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and reached an estimated 7,425 people directly and 146,500 indirectly.


IRC mobilised its existing Transformation Facilitators and Inclusive WASH Jirgas (IWJ) to promote good hygiene behaviour and accessibility to WASH, communicate critical COVID-19 information, and addressed specific issues that impacted women, girls and transgender communities during the pandemic such as menstrual hygiene management (MHM), stress management, safety and WASH-related livelihoods.


IRC implemented:

(i) safety audits of WASH services to minimise gender based violence;

(ii) behaviour change communication campaigns,

(iii) MHM awareness raising;

(iv) support for women entrepreneurs to expand WASH-related businesses;

(iv) training for women IWJ members to produce soap and detergents;

(v) improve WASH services in Health facilities and special schools; and

(vi) rehabilitate existing community water sources.


IRC's COVID-19 response was coordinated with Unilever UK and relevant government departments (Health, LGRDD/TMAs, District Administrations, Social Welfare) across three districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and at the National Level, with National Institute of Health (NIH) as well as the National and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (N/PDMAs).


Australia continues to support COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery activities across the Indo-Pacific region to secure our region's health, wellbeing and stability in these challenging times.

An unprecedented crisis requires a coordinated response. Through our water resources management and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects, we are not only delivering safe, equitable and sustainable water and WASH, we are also building healthy, inclusive and resilient societies. We're supporting individuals, communities and countries to endure, and recover from, the COVID-19 crisis as well as to future extreme events and natural disasters. 




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*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.

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