Women-Led Output Based Aid (WOBA) in Cambodia

From 2018 to December 2022, Water for Women partnered with Thrive Networks / East Meets West to deliver WOBA to some of the poorest and most vulnerable households in 23 districts across nine provinces of Cambodia.


In Cambodia, the government assesses and identifies households in the lowest poverty quintiles and issues ‘ID Poor 1 and 2’ cards to households based on a number of economic variables.  This forms part of a larger effort by the government to reduce poverty by 1% each year.  Currently, about 15% of the population are categorised as poor by these criteria.  

In general, water and sanitation providers in Cambodia do not specifically target the poor and  tend to focus on the general population through conventional projects.  Thrive is one of the few organisations that implements WASH with an aim to target the poor and marginalised communities. 

“In Prey Veng, most districts have allocated a budget from the commune for sanitation.  In Kamchay Mear, this means we can cover the delivery and installation of 2,000 latrines in 2018.”

-  Mr. Ung Ty, Deputy Director of the Provincial Department of Rural Development in Prey Veng province


Water for Women partners with Thrive Networks in delivering Women-Led Output Based Aid (WOBA) to reach rural, low-income and marginalised households with improved access to clean water, improved sanitation and hygiene education with a focus on ensuring gender equality and social inclusion in all activities undertaken. 

WOBA Cambodia will institutionalise through partnerships with national and sub-national governments.  WOBA seeks to create meaningful gender empowerment outcomes through systematically engaging women as change agents in the sector and decision-makers in the household. 

WOBA targets 23 districts across nine provinces.  These districts have been selected based on their capacity and willingness to mobilise commune co-financing for poor/GESI household rebates.

The target provinces are Prey Veng, Takeo, Kampot, Kratie, Kampong Cham, Pursat, Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Tbong Khmum. 

Regional map of nine provinces in Cambodia


In Years 3 or 4 of the project, Thrive may assess if there is a need and capacity to expand to new project districts. 

Building on Thrive’s output-based approach to sanitation, WOBA uses a smart-subsidy program targeting poor and vulnerable households, especially those classified as being in the GESI category – that is, being poor and having a family member with a disability, be a woman-headed household, have an elderly household member or a child under 5 years of age.  The targeted subsidies will be supported by the Government of Cambodia and Thrive’s commercial sanitation model will support market development.

WOBA also works with selected private water entrepreneurs and the Cambodia Water Association to support the application of poor and vulnerable households in the service area, to connect to privately owned schemes, using a smart subsidy approach. 


Thrive estimates that WOBA will achieve:

  • 3,750 households access pro-GESI subsidy in the service area, to connect to privately owned schemes.
  • 30,000 households will build hygienic latrines across nine provinces. 

This target will be split equally between poor/GESI households (with OBA subsidies) and non-poor households.

  • 4,000 households reached will be in the GESI category.
  • Further, 3,750 previously unserved poor and/or GESI households will be connected to existing water schemes in three provinces. 

WOBA is working towards five project outcomes:

  1. Strengthened national and sub-national WASH systems with government able to implement and sustain inclusive, output-based WASH approaches in rural Cambodia.
  2. Strengthened private sector ability to operate sustainably and reach poor and GESI communities in rural Cambodia; increasing their role in providing high quality WASH services to all.
  3. Improved access to and use of equitable WASH services, especially among marginalised community members.
  4. Improved gender empowerment and systematic inclusion of women in households and communities and institutions.

Increased use of evidence and innovation in gender and inclusive WASH in Cambodia; increased contribution to regional and global evidence base.

“We are able to mobilise commune budgets in our districts to contribute to this project.  There is a female-led structure from village to district level, and we will work with our counterparts in government to realise the aims of the project.”

-  Ms. Meng Nhet, District Deputy Governor in Kampot province and Ms. Khleang Vantha, District Deputy Governor in Takeo province.


Innovation & Impact


In 2021, this project was awarded an Innovation and Impact grant to further strengthen the use of new evidence, innovation and practice in sustainable and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and, in doing so, contribute to improved learning and practice globally.

Led by the Thrive Networks / East Meets West, this Innovation and Impact project is providing insight into resilient thinking and adaptive capacities, and how these can be enhanced in inclusive ways within the contexts and characteristics of Cambodia’s marginalised communities.


Learn more


 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 Cambodia, two Water for Women Fund CSO partners, Thrive Networks / East Meets West and iDE adapted their existing projects to deliver COVID-19 responses to benefit an estimated 81,940 people.

Thrive Networks / EMW enhanced its existing programming to improve hygiene services to vulnerable communities. In particular, 2,222 poor households with People with Disabilities (approximately 9,940 people) in 7 provinces were supported with handwashing facilities. All of the activities proposed were designed to respond to worsening outbreaks as needed.

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 build resilience 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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