University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Sustainable Futures

(Type 2) Research: WRA034

Research Focus: Gender equality in WASH: strengthening civil society partnerships, workforce development and impact measurement 

Locations: Indonesia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Nepal 

Partner CSOs: SNV, Plan International Australia, WaterAid, iDE and Thrive Networks - East Meets West. 


March 2023


The University of Technology Sydney - Institute for Sustainable Futures, together with SNV, Plan International Australia, WaterAid, iDE and Thrive Networks – East Meets West, has recently completed their research project, Gender in WASH Partnerships, Workforce and Impact Assessment. 

The research investigated how CSOs can more strategically engage with civil society, government and private sector to achieve gender and socially inclusive WASH policy and practice and measure relevant gender equality impacts. The original scope was extended to incorporate climate change issues and organisations to support the next phase of Water for Women grants (2023-2024) and the WASH sector more broadly. A strong partnership was forged with the International Water Association for this component of the project.

Key outputs include the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene - Gender Equality Measure (WASH-GEM) training website, and qualKit curated online qualitative monitoring, evalution and learning tools.


You can read more about the project and the research team's reflections in their project wrap up:

Strengthening gender equality and women's empowerment in WASH

Key Research Questions: 

How can Civil Society Organisations more strategically engage with other civil society actors, government and private sector actors to achieve gender and inclusive WASH policy, practice and outcomes?

a) What are the drivers, benefits, and challenges of coordinated engagement between WASH organisations and women’s rights and advocacy organisations? 

b) How can women better participate in and benefit from contributing to the WASH workforce including enterprises and government institutions? 

c) How can a multi-dimensional index, complemented by qualitative approaches, generate evidence on attributable impacts of WASH on gender equality?    


Research Description: 

Despite increasing attention to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the WASH sector, there remain gaps in both evidence and guidance for practitioners and policy-makers.

Partnering with the University of Technology Sydney – Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS-ISF), this research project will look at three new areas that connect gender equality and WASH: partnerships with other civil society actors, gender equality in the WASH workforce and measurement of gender equality outcomes in Indonesia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Nepal to achieve gender and socially inclusive WASH policy, practice and outcomes.

The project is made up of three research components that will support improved CSO implementation as follows: 

  1. Civil society partnerships: The research will inform more effective, mutually beneficial partnerships between WASH CSOs and gender and women's rights organisations at national and local levels.
  2. Gender equality in the WASH workforce: The research will contribute to CSO empowerment outcomes for female entrepreneurs, support gender equality in workplaces and more inclusive program implementation by local and national governments.
  3. Impact measurement: The research will contribute a robust quantitative measure and qualitative methods to improve CSO partner monitoring of gender equality outcomes and broader sectoral monitoring efforts.

Taking a collaborative, co-design partnership approach, including in-country researchers and specialist agencies, the research will contribute to global evidence and practical guidance for CSOs and wider development partners.

This research will contribute to other Water for Women CSO project outcomes including: WaterAid Timor-Leste and Plan Indonesia’s partnerships with gender equality focussed CSOs, Plan Indonesia and Thrive Cambodia’s planned empowerment outcomes for female entrepreneurs; Plan Indonesia's gender and inclusive sanitation program implementation by local government; and Plan and Thrive's national policy influence in relation to gender and inclusion in WASH.

This research will also contribute to improved measurement of iDE Cambodia’s empowerment outcomes and SNV Nepal’s outcomes of improved leadership, voice, and choice of women and socially excluded.

“This research will help provide credible evidence to support advocacy of improving national sanitation program gender and inclusion regulations at the national level while supporting the improvement of gender and inclusive implementation at the local level. In addition, this research will help us [Plan Indonesia] improve our methods of partnership with gender, disability and women’s right’s organisations”

Silvia Landa, Project Manager for Plan Indonesia’s Water for Women project



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 University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Sustainable Futures, this Innovation and Impact project is facilitating uptake and piloting use of key outputs generated through the Gender in WASH Partnerships, Workforce and Impact Assessment research project, with a focus on WASH workforce and impact assessment, to contribute to gender and inclusion outcomes, such as improved leadership, voice, and choice of women and socially excluded community members.


Learn more


Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney
Plan International
Thrive Networks
CBM Logo
Edge Effect Logo

Water for Women is proud to be partnering with the University of Technology Sydney – Institute for Sustainable Futures, SNV, Plan International, WaterAid, iDE and Thrive, Universitas Indonesia and Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa'e in this important research work.


Photo: Women in the WASH workforce and community engaging in discussion and decisions on access to WASH services. (Credit: UTS-ISF Juliet Willetts)

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