Strengthening community resilience and inclusion through Improved WASH services in Fiji

From 2018 - 2022, Water for Women partnered with Habitat for Humanity in strengthening community resilience and inclusion through Improved WASH services in Fiji, reaching over 5,400* people in 18 communities across Ra and Ba Provinces.

This project came to a close on December 2022.

Through Habitat for Humanity’s Water for Women project, the inclusion of women within community planning activities and school engagements has fostered more equitable and inclusive decision-making processes, leading to paradigm shifts in both men and women within the communities. (Habitat for Humanity Fiji)


In communities across the Ra and Ba provinces of Fiji, it was not uncommon to have water supplies rationed for up to three hours a day during the dry season, and to rely on carted water or have to resort to using lower quality water sources for daily water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs. And although women held responsibility for household water and WASH tasks, the overall representation of women on community water committees was only around 21%.


But over the past five years, Australia’s Water for Women project with Habitat for Humanity has been working to improve this situation in 18 communities and 11 schools across both provinces. The target communities are among some of Fiji’s most remotely situated, with high numbers of informal settlements, and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including droughts, sea level rise, coastal inundation, severe storm surges and tropical cyclones.


With a focus on the most marginalised within communities, specifically women and girls, people with disabilities, the project has directly benefitted some 5,470 people with improved access to WASH, including more than 2,700 women and girls and 117 people with disabilities.




Despite suffering recent major natural disasters that hinder development in the country, Fiji enjoys relatively high levels of water and sanitation access.

There has been significant investment in rural water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and village water committees, but these are often under-skilled and under-resourced.  Communities need support to better manage and maintain water sources, considering competing demands on its use as well as the increased threat to supply from climatic shocks and stresses.

Strong and persistent cultural barriers restrict the uptake and behavioural change around specific hygiene issues, made even more challenging during and post-disasters:

Women are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence when it comes to WASH services. Girls report a lack of knowledge in proper hygiene throughout menstruation.

Discrimination, violence and exclusion from disaster relief and WASH services are a common experience for marginalised people and groups.

Women and girls with disabilities continue to face discrimination, and while there has been some success in promoting people with disability into decision-making committees, such engagement has proved more effective in urban rather than rural areas.


"The advantage of having women on the WASH committee is to break the barriers of gender inequality in the village. Women are the ones that use water on a daily basis in terms of washing, cooking, drinking and cleaning, thus it is important that they are included in the WASH committee."

Joshua Rili, Youth leader and WASH Committee member from Nasoqo community 


These issues surrounding disaster relief and WASH access for marginalised people and groups within communities are particularly acute in rural areas. Water for Women's Fiji project used gender equality and social inclusion approaches to ensure all community members, including marginalised people and groups can access safe WASH.



From 2018 - 2022, Water for Women partnered with Habitat for Humanity in strengthening community resilience and inclusion through Improved WASH services in Fiji.

The aim of this project was to use participatory and socially inclusive community development to strengthen the resilience of 18 communities through increased access to equitable and inclusive WASH.  

Over 4.5 years, this project addressed the WASH needs of over 5,400 people across Ba and Ra Provinces.  These locations were chosen due to remoteness, high numbers of informal settlements and having been identified as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as droughts, sea level rise, coastal inundation, severe storm surges and tropical cyclones.  

Regional map of Fiji


The project focused on the most marginalised within these communities, specifically women and girls, people with disabilities, and people from margnalised groups. By empowering these groups to be actively engaged in WASH technical roles, WASH governance structures and management, and behaviour change throughout their own communities, the project worked to achieve changes in attitudes and greater equality and social inclusion for marginalised groups within the community. 


"The Water for Women Project will bridge the gap between the Fijian Government, CSOs and the community, providing a solid platform for women, children and the most marginalised in local communities to transform how they access and use WASH services.”

Sokimi Alfred, WASH Program Manager 

Watch our Fiji Do No Harm in WASH pilot (2019)



Project activities were designed to achieve four key end-of-project outcomes:

1. Strengthen resilience of 18 rural communities to WASH related shocks and stresses by increasing the number of women in WASH technical roles and women’s agency in community and government WASH management structures by:

  • Increasing access to improved and resilient water and sanitation facilities.
  • Improving women's agency in community and wash management structures.
  • Improving accessibility of technical training courses for women in Fiji.
  • Achieving at least 30% of graduates of the accredited course take up (unpaid) WASH roles within the community.
  • Achieving at least 30% of graduates of the accredited course take up paid employment in WASH roles. 

2. To improve community behaviours around hand washing, menstrual hygiene management, water safety and faecal sludge management. 


3. Increase demand for low water-use sanitation options, which mitigate climate change risks.

  • Adoption of low water-use sanitation in schools approach by ‘WASH advocates’ for replication in other Pacific locations.
  • Increased demand for low water-use sanitation options, which mitigate climate change risks in the communities. 

4. Ensure Knowledge and Learning is part of the process to increase engagement and sustainability of these initiatives.

  • Increased collaboration, knowledge shared and sector learning between international, regional and local stakeholders.  

Key achievements

Habitat for Humanity's Water for Women project has improved quantity and quality of drinking water in communities, and positive changes in WASH behaviours (e.g. handwashing and solar distillation).

The project has made significant progress towards increasing the agency of women in WASH governance structures, with an overall increase of women on the WASH committees from 21% to 41%, including women being elected to six water committees where previously there was no representation of women. There have been changes to attitudes towards women’s engagement on the WASH committees, and support from male leaders has resulted in wider community acceptance of women’s roles.

New infrastructure in schools, complemented by school engagements, has improved access to water, toilets, handwashing and menstrual hygiene facilities. Previously, none of the project schools had menstrual hygiene facilities, and their installation has proved to be a success, with teachers reporting a reduction of absenteeism amongst girls.

Overall, the project has successfully delivered sustainable and gender-inclusive WASH services and behavioural change outcomes through community and school engagements, supported by infrastructure priorities identified by, and implemented with, the communities.


Some project highlights include:

  • delivery of COVID-19 pandemic support including prevention initiatives in communities and in schools
  • delivery of the Do No Harm pilot project and incorporation of Do No Harm principles and practices into project activities targeted at changing negative mindsets regarding gender and social inclusion, which has led to a paradigm shift in both men and women within the communities
  • delivery of handwashing behaviour change initiatives and training on water treatment through solar distillation, with communities reporting no new cases of diarrhea or typhoid since participation.


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 Fiji, after the government expressed a need to raise public awareness of COVID-19, Water for Women's implementing partner, Habitat for Humanity Fiji worked with local partners including Vinaka Fiji to embed COVID-19 messaging in Community WASH training and monitoring mechanisms. COVID-19 messaging was disseminated through community engagement processes in Fiji, targeting the project's 18 communities in Ra and Ba. 


A COVID-19 communications protocol was developed drawing on advice from WHO, Sphere Standards, official Fiji government data and recommendations, as well as contextual/cultural appropriateness. Hygiene behaviour change components of community engagement modules focused on handwashing and disease transmission pathways were also adapted to include COVID-19 examples.


Community engagement emphasised inclusive COVID-19 messaging for carers, LGBTQI+ individuals and people with disabilities to focus on inclusion and GBV. Messaging was delivered through focused-group discussion, ensuring all groups were consulted including LGBTIQ+, people with a disability, women, youth and men and IEC materials developed by Fiji Disabled People's Federation and MHMS were included.


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. 


water for women logo

Habitat for Humanity logo

Australia's development assistance program is proud to have partnered with Habitat for Humanity Australia and Habitat for Humanity Fiji along with local partners including Vinaka Fiji, Ra Naari Parishad (RNP) and Fiji National University’s (FNU) National Training and Productivity Centre (NTPC) in the delivery of this project.

*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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