The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

(Type 1) Research: WRA1048

Research Focus: Translating disability inclusive WASH policies into practice: lessons learned from Cambodia and Bangladesh

Locations: Cambodia and Bangladesh

Research Theme: Gender and social inclusion and WASH

Partners: WaterAid Australia, WaterAid Cambodia, WaterAid Bangladesh, Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation, Royal University of Phnom Penh and Identity Inclusion 

Key Research Questions:

How can the national WASH policies of Cambodia and Bangladesh more effectively address the needs of women and girls with disabilities and female caregivers?

(i)    How effectively do these policies currently address requirements of women and girls with disabilities and caregivers?

(ii)   How can these policies better support the action of private citizens at household level, promote effective collaboration between government and civil society organisations, facilitate the involvement of the private sector and ensure accountability?

Research Description: 

Equality and non-discrimination is core to the Sustainable Development Goals mantra, ‘leave no one behind.’ And yet data from 34 countries reveal that people with disabilities are more likely to live in households without access to basic water and sanitation than people without disabilities (UN, 2018). People with disabilities are less likely to have access to bathing and latrines in their homes and face stigma and discrimination when using public WASH services (UN, 2018).

In many low and middle income countries, disability is included in national WASH policies, but often gaps in translating policy into practice exist. Disability is also a gendered issue, particularly with respect to WASH, so it is vital to apply a gendered perspective to understanding WASH and disability.

Women may experience menstruation, post-partum bleeding and menopause which bring a specific set of WASH requirements not experienced by men. Women often bear socially prescribed responsibility for household water provision, regardless of their disability status and are often primary caregivers for household members with disabilities (White et al, 2016).

Governments should take a lead role in designing and implementing plans that progressively ensure people with disabilities gain access to WASH services. Policies are critical for guiding and enforcing the development, implementation and monitoring of disability inclusive WASH. Whilst many governments are committed to delivering disability inclusive WASH services at scale, they sometimes face challenges in putting these into practice.

Guidance should be resourced and provided to enhance stakeholder’s capacity (including government officials, private sector and WASH actors) to effectively deliver these policies.

By drawing on experience in Cambodia and Bangladesh, this research project will examine WASH policies from a disability inclusive and gender perspective, looking at their outcomes for women and girls with disability and female caregivers. We will draw out lessons, examples of good practice, bottlenecks and areas of weakness.

The aim is to produce policy and practice guidance for governments wishing to mainstream disability inclusive WASH at scale.

'This research will be critical in helping to understand how Cambodia’s national guidelines on inclusive WASH are being implemented. And also to understand the impacts that inclusive programs are having for people living with a disability. Ensuring facilities are available for all will be vital in delivering Cambodia’s ambitious targets for universal access by 2025’.

WaterAid Cambodia: Pharozin Pheng, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager 

‘Although there are numerous WASH policies and strategies in place, when we critically examine the ground scenario, we see clear gaps in understanding and execution that affect marginalised populations like people with disabilities and women most acutely. In Bangladesh, we need to look at WASH policy frameworks through the lens of inclusivity and identify clear actionable changes that will allow everyone, everywhere to live to their full potential.’

WaterAid Bangladesh: Mahfuj-ur Rahman, Equity and Rights Specialist


Water for Women is proud to be partnering with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, WaterAid Australia, WaterAid Cambodia and WaterAid Bangladesh in this important research work. The project will also partner locally with Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation, Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Identity Inclusion.

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