Monash University and Emory University

(Type 1) Research: WRA1023

Research Focus: Development of a toolkit for the intersectional and gender-inclusive co-design of water-sensitive solutions for urban informal settlements

Location: Indonesia and Fiji 

Research Theme: Gender and social inclusion in WASH

Key Research Questions:

To what extent is an intersectional gender and socially inclusive co-design approach to WASH effective in engaging and addressing the needs of diverse women and girls and improving their lives?

(i)    How and to what degree does the co-design process meaningfully engage a diverse range of women and girls? 

(ii)   To what extent and how were diverse women and girls’ inputs incorporated into the concept design of the infrastructure intervention?

(iii)  Are diverse women and girls in intervention communities satisfied with the process and infrastructure outcome of the co-design? 

(iv)  What impact did engagement in the co-design process have on diverse women and girls’ leadership self-efficacy, safety and inclusion?

Research Description: 

Historically, WASH programs have been criticised for being gender-blind, meaning that they largely ignore gender norms in favour of a one-size-fits-all approach to providing WASH facilities.

There is increasing awareness of the need for more gender-sensitive approaches based on different biological and social needs of women and men. Together, Monash and Emory aim to generate evidence on an intersectional gender and socially inclusive approach to sustainable and safely managed water and sanitation.

This research will take the form of a sub-study within the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) program – a five-year action-research program operating in 24 urban informal settlements in Indonesia and Fiji. Working with communities, governments, local leaders and partner institutions, RISE integrates green infrastructure (such as constructed wetlands and bio-filtration gardens) into the settlements to strengthen the whole-of-life water and sanitation cycle. The RISE intervention operates across household, neighbourhood, precinct and city scales. The ultimate aim is to reduce environmental contamination and improve human health and wellbeing across the 24 urban informal settlements.

Co-design is a key element of RISE’s water and sanitation interventions: the process involves collaborative decision-making and planning, where researchers and residents of the informal settlements come together to plan the green infrastructure solutions together.

This sub-study within RISE will allow us to generate evidence from this co-design process, through separate activities for men, women and girls and children.

We expect this research to:

  1. Provide data on how to meaningfully engage women, men and children during co-design, including those with a disability and other vulnerabilities;
  2. Contribute to an understanding of able-bodied, disabled and vulnerable women and girls’ perceptions of the co-design process, and the resulting green infrastructure solutions at a household and neighbourhood scale; and
  3. Help generate more comprehensive evidence on the effects of co-design as a process that may well go beyond WASH-specific benefits (e.g. increased women’s leadership, self-efficacy, inclusion and safety).

This information will help produce a co-design toolkit, one that is based on rigorous gender data. The toolkit will act as a reliable resource for future WASH projects for civil society organisations, governments and other WASH sector actors.

“This sub-study within RISE is an opportunity for us to better understand who these nature-based solutions are working for, to ultimately help improve access to the social and health benefits that these solutions offer”

Dr Becky Batagol, Associate Professor, Monash Law and Monash Sustainable Development Institute


“The strength of this research is the interdisciplinary knowledge and experience in water, gender equality and design. By documenting and codifying empirical knowledge on the needs and priorities of women and girls during co-design, this research could reshape urban water and sanitation interventions”

Dr Sheela Sinharoy, Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory Rollins School of Public Health

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Monash University
Monash Sustainable Development Institute
Emory University

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