SDC Water Blog

Mar 03
How to effectively communicate water issues? Key takeaways from SIWI's World Water Week Communication Initiative

How can the water sector build up and facilitate capacity for effective reporting, storytelling, and outreach on water issues? This is what the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) aimed to tackle during its World Water Week Communications Initiative 2021. The training program included modules presented by speakers from various backgrounds. The detailed program with the list of speakers is available here. This blog aims to capture the biggest takeaways from the 8-day training, so that we, water professionals, can become more mindful towards becoming better communicators.

This summary was prepared by a participant of the training and reflects her own view of key statements and takeaways from the speakers and various sessions.

Communicating complex issues

Water may not have been as prominent in the media as other environmental and social issues because it is a complex issue often not as much understood, the poor are largely the victims, and the sanitation topic has often been a taboo. We must aim to understand this complexity to be able to communicate water issues effectively. Luckily, data around water has moved from quite abstract to becoming more concrete, which makes it easier to tell human stories. Stories help our heads get around issues. Stories that touch our hearts become important. Hence, we need to tell good water stories to wake up minds and hearts to act on water issues. These were the main takeaways from the first day, coming from the discussions with Sunita Narain, Director General of the Centre of Science and Environment, and Sandra Postel, Director of the Global Water Policy Project.

The roles of communicators have changed in the last few years.  Now, working on one thing requires knowing many things, seeing interconnections, and constantly adapting knowledge, explained Maria Hagardt from Vetenskap & Allmänhet. There are different ways of communicating and engaging with people; what is vital is to keep a broader helicopter view while also having good filtering and fact-checking ability. One could say, despite more accessibility, it is more difficult to be a communicator today. Moreover, a large proportion of today’s society and policy-makers are not relying as much anymore on mediated communication as they used to and the relevance of journalistic gatekeeping has decreased; hence, we need to zoom out to a wider spectrum of science communication. Engagement is by definition a two-way process. Just as 3Ps of sustainability (people, planet, profit), one should also keep in mind 3Ps of public engagement: purpose, people, process.

One can argue whether effective communication is an art or a science; perhaps it is both. Nevertheless, we should be as scientific about communication as we are on the science that we are communicating, shared Alexander Gerber from Rhine-Waal University. Below are some highlighting factors or tendencies that science has proven so far from his presentation:

-          Motivated reasoning and confirmation bias: we seek after evidence that confirms our belief than evidence that disconfirms.

-          Negativity dominance: bad is always more strongly noticed than good even if the good is more frequent.

-          Trust: trust is vital and can easily be built or destroyed

-          Cognitive ease and availability bias: our brains choose the cognitively easy way to use less energy. If something we hear is something we know, our brain struggles to determine if it is something that is true or just something that we were exposed to.

-          Framing, priming, and anchoring: they play a big role in how information as a whole is processed.

-          Risk aversion: every human brain has the built in tendency to avoid risks and loss, which leads to a spiral of silence.

-          Inoculation theory: Prebunking (activating arguments for future defence) instead of debunking fake news has been shown to be more effective.

We should move towards an evidence based science communication paradigm (EBSC). There is scientific evidence on how information is processed and how opinions form out there. Communication professionals should make use of it. Following the manifesto on EBSC, there is a four-stage Knowledge Cascade: 1) Determine the relevance of evidence; 2) Make relevant evidence accessible; 3) Enhance the transferability of accessible evidence; 4) Rely on quality-assured transferrable knowledge.

We have the responsibility to spread facts, and this can be done well through storytelling. But how do we get out of the dilemma of fake news? Mr. Gerber answered this question by saying that pumping up the volume of communication may not be the answer to this and can even be counterproductive. Most spreading of information nowadays happens in “echo chambers”, an environment in which people encounter opinions similar to their own, reinforcing their beliefs without being confronted to alternatives. These echo chambers can only be addressed from inside the chamber itself. Make your way into it by listening. Understand their values, build trust and show respect, communicate and tell a story in accordance to people’s value system.

Telling stories

So what is it about storytelling that makes it so effective? Neuroscience shows that our brain is stimulated by personal stories and emotions move us to act, explained science communicator, Ragnhild Larsson. We have shared stories long before we could even read or write. Stories create meaning and help us remember experiences. There is a “neuro story net” at the back of our heads, where incoming information is turned into a story. If the brain can’t make sense of something, it won’t pay attention. We change or even reverse factual information, make assumptions, ignore parts, and misinterpret. So, we must keep in mind that the story our audience absorbs is not the one we tell them. Therefore, a good story structure is vital. One needs to find the audience and determine the key message in light of the goal. The message box method from the book Escape the Ivory Tower can for instance be applied (see figure below). We can also keep in mind the Golden Circle Method developed by Simon Sinek: why à how à what (and not reverse) or the …and…but…therefore method from the book Houston We Have A Narrative.

Figure 1. The message box method from Escape the Ivory Tower

Science needs more stories. Often, scientists want to hide as they need to stay objective. However, it is important to show why the research means something to the researcher. Only then can it mean something to others. It is also important to make people understand how the research process works, not just throw out results. Rather than simply discussing research, here are some key questions that should be communicated, according to Ms. Larsson:

-          Why do you do what you do? What is your driving force?

-          What problems do you want to solve? What do you want to achieve?

-          Why is it important? Who benefits?

-          Was there a decisive moment?

-          What were the challenges and successes?

“Let’s start making stories, and remember, there is a difference between private and personal, so let’s be personal.”

Running a successful campaign

How can organizations run a successful campaign? The international organization Global Citizen presented their campaigning approach, which is a circular and not a linear process. The figure below shows the approach consisting of the following elements: The need, campaign creation and citizen engagement, the journey itself, the big stage: carrot and culmination, the follow up: impact assessment.


Figure 2. Global Citizen’s Campaign Journey Circular Process

Below are key takeaways from a recent big campaign:

-          Identify your audience and tailor your messages, make it digestible;

-          Addressing the technical details should not be at the expense of actual outcomes;

-          Your targets will not always align with government or funder priorities, navigate the common ground early on;

-          Don’t exclude unlikely partners- every stakeholder has a role to play. Use their power and target it in the right direction;

-          Take the intersectional approach and personal stories;

-          Take people on the journey, shape together and don’t set the recipe in stone.

It is also important to have key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor and evaluate campaigns. As presented by Xiny Ge from UNICEF, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is important for recognition and accountability of advocacy work, documentation for future references and potential comparative analyses, and a source of information for reflections and learnings. Draft an M&E plan early on and set up relevant media monitoring tools to keep track of the agreed upon KPIs. Examples of tools used by UNICEF are Talkwalker, Lexis Nexis Newsdesk, TVEyes, Google Analytics, and native social media analytics. KPIs can be: # social media mentions; ranking of most engaging platforms; #video views; #post reactions; # mentions in print, online, or broadcast media; # of unique page views; time spent on a page; etc.

Creative best practices to get content noticed on social media

To develop a good campaign or grow a community for cause, nowadays presence on social media platforms is inevitable. Joy Rodriguez from Facebook shared some useful tips and creative best practices that are outlined below.

It is important to know an organization’s cause and brand in order to stay authentic. When we create content, we must keep audience in mind and tailor content accordingly. Connect with audience by integrating a consistent look and feel (your brand), tell a story and not a fact - stories are 22 times more memorable than a statistical fact - and keep it short. Ideally, communicate one main message or idea at a time. High quality images bring posts to life. Grab attention through simple photography skills like: 1) rule of thirds (if one subject is in focus, have it within 30% of the frame); 2) use space to spotlight your subject; 3) use leading lines to lead the eyes to where you want; 4) experiment with lighting; 5) use a single focal point. Short videos are even better; they have shown to engage posts about 5 times more than static images. Also, utilize the full vertical canvas space/screens of phones. Features like going live on Instagram and Facebook are also proven to be very effective. Facebook and Instagram feed posts can be used for long-lasting content to engage people in the long-term but use stories (short-lasting content for 24 hours) for the purpose of informing people of something and playfully engage (recently shown to be more effective than regular posts). Be interactive and run polls, invite people to ask questions, use countdowns, etc. In the end, make sure to share content through a variety of formats, diversify your strategy, and meet people where they are to open up conversations.

Creating high quality and engaging creative content does not need to be expensive. There are various tools and apps to help create compelling content and stories and DIY in-house studio methods. Make sure to take photos and videos in well-lit places, try different views, use smart layouts, use apps to edit, and while doing so make sure to keep a consistent look and feel. Below is a list of the top 10 creative image and video editing apps presented by Ms. Rodriguez:


Figure 3. Top 10 creative apps recommended by Joy Rodriguez from Facebook

Importance of engaging the public

We must make people aware and get people talking more about water issues to demand and put pressure on leaders to act. Through public awareness, we can keep political leaders in check and place social justice at the heart of the movement. The water sector could use a Greta or Friday’s for Future movement, shared Anandita Sabherwal, who studied the secret behind the movement’s success. The key is to convey to people their actions do matter and making them feel belong to a larger group. An overload of information may make people feel guilty and is often not the solution; highlight the need for procedural change while also walking the talk. Diane Husic, Dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences at Moravian College, also reminded the workshop participants to share stories about hope, not just doom and gloom which often leads to people shutting down to absorbing any more information. Let us not just throw in big data, but also engage people on a personal and local level, finding common ground and starting conversations. Engaging the public is a moral obligation.

Mar 06
Building Resilient WASH Systems in Fragile Contexts - Geneva

On the 12-13 December 2019 in Geneva, a learning event on WASH systems in fragile contexts organized by Johannes Rück and Thilo Panzerbeiter from the German WASH Network brought together humanitarian and development actors. The question at the heart of the event was "How can we collectively strengthen the resilience of the WASH sector to ensure predictable emergency response while protecting SDG gains?".

The Humanitarian Development Nexus

To build a bridge between the humanitarian and development realms, the event brought together humanitarian and development actors and aimed to align on definitions, terminology and perspectives from both sides. With these elements in mind, development actors from the participants were invited to discuss the expectation from humanitarian actors, and vice-versa. cf the results of the discussion on the table below.

Table 1 Group exercise: What do development/humanitarian actors expect from each other's?

Humanitarian and development organizations should align from the beginning, and consider the fragility and conflict dynamics in which interventions take place. Short-term needs should be addressed while strengthening long-term capacity in order to in fine build the sector resilience. Some participants went beyond the need for effective coordination structures, mentioning that the binary distinction between humanitarian/development actors should be overcame and the wording 'WASH actors' should be favored.

Three topics presentations and group discussion

1.      WASH systems strengthening

Will Tillett (Consultant, Agua Consult), presented his plans for a paper on 'Applying systems strengthening concepts and approaches in fragile contexts'. Considering that there is relatively limited documentation in the sector on systems strengthening in fragile contexts, he would like to adapt concepts and approaches of systems strengthening to make them more applicable in such contexts. This will be addressed to both systems thinkers and practitioners, from a NGOs' perspective. Four questions were discussed in groups.

1) Is WASH systems strengthening still possible at all in contexts where the government is not adhering to humanitarian principles?

• We can identify other actors to engage with.

• Utilities offer a parallel system to the government's one.

• We can use water as a non-political entry point to discuss with governments.

• It is important to identify common ground.

2) In what ways does fragility and humanitarian contexts present an opportunity for systems strengthening? Coordination platforms increase the ability to dialogue with different segments of the sector. In addition, there are opportunities to innovate.

3) How can we adapt our programming in fragile and humanitarian contexts to strengthen systems?
There is a need to understand the market that exists: service suppliers and supply chain providers. Also, it is important to create demand before supply, which means working with communities instead of being supply-driven.

4) How to achieve durability in systems change? (Resilience of systems improvements)

• Influencing governments
• Having a single focal point in countries
• Inclusion of humanitarian principles

Regarding the question of mandate, do we add resilience to the mandate of humanitarian agencies; or should it stay under the mandate of development actors but with a joint planning with humanitarian ones? The conclusion was that if we think that way, we are back into silos. All should contribute to the same collective goal and think holistically.

Contributions and ideas of platforms for disseminations are welcome:


2.      Sanitation and Water for All strategy

Alexandra Reis (Sanitation and Water for All– Partnership, Communications Manager), presented the strategic objectives of the new strategy of SWA:

• build and sustain political will to prioritize the elimination of inequalities in WASH at all levels

• systematically use multi-stakeholder approaches to achieve water and sanitation for all

• rally stakeholders to strengthen system performance and attract new investments

SWA is an advocacy tool, which partners can use as much (or little) as they want. There will not be a WASH police from the secretariat, but a mutual accountability mechanism. The reformulation of the SWA strategy provides the opportunity to harmonize frameworks between SWA and GWC, and the participants discussed the kick starting of the collaboration between SWA and the Global Wash Cluster.

3.      Turning the GWC Roadmap recommendations into action

The Global Wash Cluster (GWC) has developed five overarching recommendations to refocus the sector in its strategic thinking. A global roadmap is currently being prepared to implement these recommendations collectively. Franck Bouvet (Deputy Coordinator, Global WASH Cluster), presented the five key recommendations:

i. Reposition WASH as a core sector for survival and protection. Get our fundamentals right!
ii. Quality WASH responses should be timely and efficient and reach the most inaccessible and difficult places. Get our capacity right!
iii. WASH responses are predictable and effective when robust protocols are in place. Give priority to preparedness and surge at all levels for WASH and keep it simple!
iv. The predictability of the WASH response depends on the timeliness and flexibility of the financial resources. Bridging between development financing and humanitarian response!
v. Build synergies between acute humanitarian situations, protracted contexts and development. Initiative a paradigm shift in the way of working in the WASH sector!

He also highlighted that it is not the Global Wash Cluster Road Map, but a road map that goes beyond, for the WASH sector. The vision of the roadmap is that by 2025 the humanitarian WASH sector has the capacity and resources to intervene in emergencies; everywhere and at any time. He mentions that after a consultation process, a final draft should be available early 2020 and followed by a second round of consultation.
The aim is to launch the Road Map for the World Water Day in March 2020. Watch out for it by following the twitter or subscribing to their mailing list. If you, or your organization, is interested in joining the cluster, additional information is available on their website.

Robert Fraser (Senior WASH Advisor, IFRC), elaborated on this pillar 5 on the Humanitarian and Development Nexus, and on the funding aspect more precisely. He expressed his doubts on the fact that a better-focused and marketed Humanitarian WASH sector will bring more money in the table. Development funding is far greater than emergency funding…we need to merge the two as complementary. To him, a better focused and restructured WASH sector, including humanitarian AND development, may be an even greater opportunity to unlock a broader set of strategic targets, tools, and capacities to better deliver all WASH needs, 'acute, 'chronic' and increasingly 'complex' and the larger investment it requires. We would not talk anymore about short or long-term interventions, or development or humanitarian actors, but WASH sector in general with pooled funding covering the Resilience Continuum in WASH (preparedness, localisation, mitigation, response, recovery, rehabilitation, sustainable development).

Following these two presentations, participants discussed the next steps to turn the roadmap into action. In terms of information, we should open an informal dialogue on the WASH sector and the need for a sector reform. In terms of action, we should host an event in 2020, most likely related to the Stockholm World Water Week. In addition, we should have a dialogue on the potential of the pooling of resources discussing e.g. the creation of a global fund or of a pooled-fund covering the resilience continuum in WASH, the setting-up of a performance framework and mechanisms to monitor engagement. There should also be a reflexion on how to become more attractive as a sector, the exploration of domestic funding/financing, and a discussion on cost recovery/financing in humanitarian WASH. Carefulness was recommended regarding financing and pooling, as we should pay attention to the fact that not everything goes for big infrastructures.


Overall, a consensus was reached on the fact that interventions should be context-dependent and that the binary development-humanitarian distinction is not relevant anymore. In terms of next steps for the group, it was agreed that an introspection work within the organisations should be done. Finally, at the end of the two-days meeting, every participant leaving the room had to answer to the following question "Coming out of the meeting, in/with my organisation I will …". This appeared to be an effective way to ensure everyone leaves the room with concrete next steps in mind, as an individual and as a group.

You can access the list of speakers and their powerpoints here.

Dec 02
Exploring the Potential of Nature-based Solutions for Sustainable Development

Everyone is talking about Nature-based solutions, but what are they exactly and do they really have the potential to foster sustainable development? Those were the questions at the core of the event organized by the Global Programme Climate Change & Environment and the Global Programme Water, on November 21st in Bern.

A common understanding

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are not about mainstreaming nature or conservation as such, but about looking at where nature can or cannot be used as a solution. According to IUCN, NbS are "actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits". James Dalton, Director of the Global Water Programme at IUCN, declared that despite being referred to as 'the new kid on the block', NbS are nothing but new; however there is a momentum and growing (business) interest for them. Janine Kuriger, Head of the Global Programme Climate Change & Environment at SDC, and Patrick Sieber, the new focal point of Climate Change & Environment, both mentioned that while, the term is currently all over the place nowadays, there are different understandings of what NbS solutions encompass and of the role they could play in fostering sustainable development. Adopting the perspective of climate change, environment and water, the event provided a space to unpack this term to reach a shared understanding. Daniel Maselli, the new focal point of SDC's Water Network RésEAU, encouraged participants to have an open mind during this learning journey, while reflecting on how we could change the rationale of our business models, from "business for profit" to "business for the benefits of people and nature".

Setting the scene

For James Dalton, social acceptance of NbS is difficult, as those solutions require time and people that are concerned with their immediate local benefits. Making use of today's technologies, David Nabarro, Strategic Director of 4SD, stated through a recorded video message that more emphasis should be put on the local and national level rather than on the international one at which we are currently working. Elise Buckle from SDG Lab, declared that the question is not to know if the solutions work, as they do, but if there is political will and available funding to scale up these solutions. Participants from the public said that the fact that the tools are not sophisticated enough is problematic for financial valuing and the quantification of benefits. A question was if there is a need to reach international consensus and to come to a new international agreement on NbS. The answer was that there is no need for this as we should make the best out of one we already have: the Paris Agreement.

Break-out sessions - project deep dive

Participants were invited to split into four groups and to join interactive break-out sessions. One session was on 'Learning watersheds in Ethiopia – solving the degradation problem', by Isabelle Providoli from CDE. The second one was on 'MiParamo – mobilising investments to preserve high Andes wetlands', by Erika Zarate from Good Stuff International. The thrird was on 'Meeting the degradation challenge in Tajikistan – letting the vegetation return', by Boris Orlowsky from Caritas. The fourth was on 'Sempre Viva – flower picker communities become first Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System in Brazil', by Judith Macchi from HEKS. The photos from the session on Sempre Viva testify that the group sessions were fruitful for thinking out of the box. Some of the elements discussed were the needs to factor in external costs and to recognize communities as custodians of healthy ecosystems, whose services should be socially valued and paid for.

The Sempre Viva project from HEKS

Group discussion on the Sempre Viva project from HEKS

Financing NbS and accelerating the uptake

Alexandra Frank, from South Pole, explained how today NbS' source of financing is a combination of public sector and philanthropy, while there is an urgent need for private funding. Nina Saalismaa, from ZOï Environment Network, declared that we should focus on three elements to upscale NbS: 1) ensuring multi-stakeholder participation; 2) addressing knowledge gaps on the implementation (need for guidelines and standards) and the evaluation sides (quantification of benefits and measurement of effectiveness) and 3) bringing funding into NbS.

Break-out sessions

Participants were again invited to choose between four different break-out sessions. Two session were on financing, one on the 'Global Fund for Forests and Nature', by Preeti Sinha from FFD Ventures; the other one was on 'Land-Use Impact Funds' by Urs Dieterich from South Pole. The two other sessions were on the topic of upscaling, one was on 'Scaling up implementation of NbS' by Radhika Murti from IUCN; the other session was on 'Policy influence and relevance of upscaling NbS' by Sandeep Sengupta from IUCN. Some elements discussed during the session on policy influence were the link between the Paris Agreement and NbS: while 60% of countries incorporated them in their national determined contributions, there is little recognition of other NbS apart from forest ecosystems (e.g. mangroves). Also despite their contribution to 30% of the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, NbS receive only 3% of the budget. The role of cities and local governments in complementing national governments was also discussed.

A new narrative

We are used to have ecosystems services for free, which results in public opinion, governments and private sector resisting against the recognition of their value and their pricing. For Johan Gély, Head of the Global Programme Water at SDC, the impact of NbS goes beyond environmental considerations: NbS are bringing additional security to the population. It would thus be interesting to mobilize a peace narrative when promoting NbS.

Nov 12
S'attaquer à la discrimination et à la négligence dans le secteur WASH : Une conversation gênante (Partie 1)

Une table ronde sur S'attaquer à la discrimination et à la négligence dans le secteur WASH : Une Conversation gênante a eu lieu lors de la Semaine mondiale de l'eau de Stockholm le 29 août 2019. Il y a eu des interventions de 6 organisations sous les auspices du Swiss Water Partnership, et la session fut facilitée par Kerstin Danert (Skat). 

Cette session portait sur les besoins spécifiques de groupes de personnes souvent négligées ou victimes de discrimination, notamment les femmes, les filles, les pauvres, les détenus, les personnes ayant des problèmes de santé mentale et les travailleuses du sexe. Vous trouverez ci-dessous un bref aperçu des sujets abordés au cours de la table ronde. L'enregistrement vidéo de la session est également disponible ici

Négliger les droits des détenus

John Brogan (Terre des hommes) a parlé de la situation dans les prisons. Plus de 11 millions de personnes à travers le monde vivent en prison, dont plus de la moitié dans des pays à faible ou moyen revenu. La population carcérale mondiale est en augmentation. Dans le contexte des ODDs et de l'accès universel, beaucoup de travail a été fait pour accroître et améliorer l'accès aux services WASH au sein des institutions telles que les écoles et établissements de santé. Cependant, les prisons sont souvent exclues de ces efforts. Peu de recherches ont été réalisées sur ce sujet : UNC a récemment publié la première revue systématique des conditions sanitaires en milieu carcéral.  Bien que le facteur de risque le plus souvent identifié soit les aliments et/ou boissons contaminés préparés ou manipulés dans la cuisine de l'institution, peu d'études ont été menées dans des pays à faible ou moyen revenu, biaisant ainsi les résultats de l'étude. L'accès aux prisons est souvent difficile : travailler sur les infrastructures WASH peut cependant ouvrir des portes permettant ainsi d'étudier les populations carcérales et les besoins spécifiques des détenus, y compris les femmes et les enfants. En effet, comme l'a souligné Shivani Swamy (Livinguard Technologies), en Inde, les enfants sont autorisés à rester en prison avec leur mère jusqu'à l'âge de 5 ans. Leurs besoins et ceux des femmes sont souvent négligés.

Un participant a également souligné qu'un projet d'une ONG visant à améliorer les conditions d'hygiène dans une prison avait été abandonné par la direction de l'ONG, car celle-ci souhaitait que le projet soit perçu comme venant en aide aux femmes et aux enfants plutôt qu'aux détenus, la seconde option étant plus difficile à vendre au public et aux donateurs. Un autre participant a remercié l'intervenant d'avoir mentionné cet élément, qui avait été souligné par le rapporteur des Nations Unies sur les droits à l'eau et à l'assainissement.

Les tabous sur la menstruation des filles et des femmes

Lucie Leclert (Swiss Water & Sanitation Consortium) a abordé le thème de la menstruation, aujourd'hui encore tabou pour de nombreuses personnes. Lucie a souligné le manque d'infrastructures adéquates dans les écoles et le fait que les filles sont très souvent non-informées sur le sujet avant leurs premières règles. La menstruation peut être un facteur d'absentéisme ou d'abandon scolaire. Les garçons et les filles devraient être inclus lors de discussions sur la menstruation : le Swiss Water & Sanitation Consortium a développé un kit des écoles bleues, qui comprend un chapitre intitulé « Grandir et changer » abordant plus largement les changements de puberté et offrant des exercices pratiques et jeux pour les enfants afin de les informer sur la menstruation.

La menstruation est également un sujet d'intérêt pour Shivani Swamy (Livinguard Technologies) dont l'entreprise a commencé à fabriquer des Saafkins, serviettes hygiéniques réutilisables, pour les femmes en Inde. Ceci répond aux besoins spécifiques de certains groupes vulnérables, y compris les femmes en prison et les travailleuses du sexe, qui peuvent ne pas avoir les moyens de se payer des sous-vêtements. Suite à la visite d'une prison pour femmes en Inde, elle a constaté que les femmes n'ont souvent pas accès au savon, pas d'intimité - il devient difficile pour les femmes de gérer leurs menstruations dans ces conditions. En outre, elle a souligné que son entreprise avait reçu des commentaires mécontents de la part de personnes sur les réseaux sociaux pour avoir répondu aux besoins de ces femmes, car elles étaient perçues comme « pas dans le besoin » ou ne méritant pas un accès facilité aux serviettes hygiéniques.

L'une des participantes (Esther de Vreede de l'organisation Simavi - qui est également membre du Sous-RésEAU Afrique de la DDC) a fait remarquer que si l'on suppose souvent que les filles ne vont pas à l'école à cause de leurs règles, la recherche montre que le manque d'infrastructures ou de serviettes hygiéniques n'est pas la principale raison pour laquelle les filles ne vont pas à l'école. En Ouganda, par exemple, la douleur pendant les règles était le principal facteur d'absentéisme des filles. Elle a également suggéré de parler de la gestion de la santé menstruelle plutôt que de la gestion de l'hygiène menstruelle, qui sous-entend que les règles ne sont pas hygiéniques. 

Assainissement Total Piloté par la Communauté – une approche discriminatoire ?

Carolien Van der Voorden (Water and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)) a souligné que l'Assainissement Total Piloté Par la Communauté (ATPC : une méthodologie bien connue par laquelle les communautés sont mobilisées afin d'éliminer complètement la défécation en plein air) pourrait ne pas être aussi inclusif que nous voudrions le croire. Une étude du WSSCC sur l'inégalité dans l'ATPC a mis en avant quelques exemples de discrimination envers les personnes ayant des problèmes de santé mentale. Dans un cas, un homme a été banni d'un village lors de la visite des inspecteurs afin que la communauté puisse obtenir le statut d'Open Defecation Free. La population ayant également été contrainte de contracter des prêts pour atteindre la norme minimale que la communauté avait fixée pour les latrines, dans un cas, cela a conduit un homme âgé à perdre ses terres. Il existe également des exemples positifs d'ATPC inclusif et tenant compte des besoins des personnes vulnérables, mais il est important d'être conscients de ces autres cas. Le WSSCC a décidé de passer à l'action en sensibilisant davantage les facilitateurs d'ATPC aux inégalités et aux préjugés, afin de s'assurer que ces initiatives ne nuisent pas, en publiant un nouveau guide sur l'égalité et la discrimination à destination des facilitateurs d'ATPC.

Assainissement partagé : l'absence de normes exclut les habitants des logements informels

Vasco Schelbert (EAWAG) a expliqué que les installations sanitaires partagées sont prédominantes dans les quartiers à faibles revenus et les logements informels. Elles peuvent prendre de nombreuses formes : partagées entre ménages, toilettes publiques ou communautaires. Toutefois, les installations partagées ne sont pas considérées comme un service de base dans le cadre de l'échelle JMP pour l'assainissement, qui est utilisée pour le suivi des ODDs. Pour cette raison, les pouvoirs publics et les ONGs n'investissent pas dans ces solutions, excluant ainsi un service que les habitants des quartiers informels utilisent et dont ils ont besoin. EAWAG travaille à l'élaboration de normes permettant d'évaluer la qualité des services d'assainissement partagés, en vue de les intégrer dans les systèmes mondiaux de surveillance tels que JMP.

Le rôle des donateurs bilatéraux tels que la Coopération suisse au développement

Nadia Benani (DDC) a souligné le rôle des bailleurs de fonds dans la sensibilisation aux thématiques inconfortables mais indispensables pour aider les plus vulnérables. Elle a insisté sur la nécessité pour les donateurs de s'éloigner de la théorie du « ruissellement économique » afin de se concentrer sur les personnes les plus pauvres et les plus marginalisées de la société. Le nombre de personnes exclues du secteur WASH est énorme –  la moitié de la population mondiale n'a pas accès à des installations sanitaires adéquates. L'approche de la DDC consiste à s'engager avec une série de partenaires afin de promouvoir des approches innovantes permettant de soutenir les personnes vulnérables.


La rapporteuse, Soraya Kohler (Swiss Water Partnership), a conclu que de nombreux obstacles dans le secteur WASH doivent encore être surmontés en ce qui concerne les populations marginalisées et vulnérables afin que l'objectif d'accès universel au WASH puisse être atteint. Nous devons veiller à ce que les questions relatives à l'égalité et à la discrimination – et, plus largement, au concept de « Ne laisser personne de côté » – restent à l'ordre du jour du développement international et plus particulièrement du secteur de l'eau.

Nov 12
Addressing Discrimination and Neglect in WASH: An Uncomfortable Conversation (Part 1)

​A panel discussion on Addressing Discrimination and Neglect in WASH: An Uncomfortable Conversation took place at Stockholm World Water Week on 29 August 2019. It included interventions from 6 organisations under the auspices of the Swiss Water Partnership, and was facilitated by Kerstin Danert (Skat).  

This session addressed the specific needs of people who are often neglected or discriminated against, including women, girls, poor people, prisoners, people with mental health issues and sexworkers. Below is a brief overview of the topics discussed during the session. You can watch a video of the session recording here

Neglecting the rights of people in prisons

John Brogan (Terre des Hommes) described the situation in prisons. More than 11 million people globally live in prisons, over half of them in low- and middle-income countries – and the global prison population is rising. In the context of the SDGs and universal access, a lot of work has been done to increase and improve access to WASH services in institutions such as schools and health facilities. However, prisons are often left out of these efforts. Not a lot of research done on this topic: UNC recently published the first systematic review of environmental health conditions in prisons.  While the most common risk factor identified was contaminated food and/or beverages prepared or handled in the institution's kitchen, few studies had conducted in low- and middle-income countries, biasing the results of this review. Getting access to prisons is often difficult: working on WASH infrastructure can however open doors to study prison populations and the specific needs of prisoners, including women and children. Indeed, as Shivani Swamy (Livinguard Technologies) pointed out, in India, children are allowed to stay in prisons with their mothers until the age of 5. Their needs, and that of women, are often neglected.

A participant also pointed out that a project by an NGO to improved sanitation conditions in a prison was killed off by senior management, as it wanted to be seen to help out women and children rather than prisoners which may be a harder sell to the public and to donors. Another participant thanked the panellist for raising this issue, which had been highlighted by the UN rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation.

The taboos around menstruation for girls and women

Lucie Leclert (Swiss Water & Sanitation Consortium) addressed the topic of menstruation, which remains taboo for many people. Lucie outlined the lack of adequate infrastructure in schools, and the fact that girls are very often not informed before their first menstruation. Menstruation can be a factor in missing or dropping out of school. Boys and girls should be included when discussing menstruation:  the Swiss Water and Sanitation Consortium developed the Blue Schools kit, which includes a chapter entitled "Grow and change", which it focuses more broadly on puberty changes and provides practical exercises and games for children, to give them information about menstruation.

Menstruation is also a topic of interest for Shivani Swamy  (Livinguard Technologies) whose company has started to manufacture Saafkins, which are reusable sanitary napkins, for women in India. It addresses the specific needs of some vulnerable groups, including women in prisons and sexworkers, who may being unable to afford underwear. Her experience in accessing a women's prison in India is that women often have no access to soap, no privacy – it becomes difficult for women to manage their menstruation in these conditions. Furthermore, she highlighted that her company had received some backlash from people on social media for addressing the needs of these women as they were perceived as 'not needy' or not deserving improved access to menstrual pads.

One of the participants (Esther de Vreede from the organisation Simavi – who is also a member of the SDC Sub-RésEAU Africa pointed out that while it is often assumed that girls miss out on school because of menstruation. Research shows that lack of sanitation infrastructure or pads is not the main reason why girls miss out on school. In Uganda, for instance, pain during their periods was the main factor for girls missing school. She also suggested to talking about Menstrual Health Management rather than Menstrual Hygiene Management, which implies that menstruation is unhygienic.  

Community-Led Total Sanitation – a discriminatory approach?

Carolien Van der Voorden (Water and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)) outlined that CLTS (an well-known methodology whereby communities are mobilised to completely eliminate open defecation) may not be as inclusive as we would like to think. A study from WSSCC on inequality in CLTS showed some examples of discrimination for people with mental health issues. In one case, a man was banned from a village so that the community could achieve Open Defecation Free status while the inspectors were visiting. People were also forced to take out loans to achieve the minimum standard that the community had set for latrines. In one case, this led to an elderly man losing his land. There are also positive examples of CLTS being inclusive and considering the needs of vulnerable people, but we need to be aware of these other cases. WSSCC is now taking action by making CLTS facilitators more aware of inequalities and preconceptions, in order to ensure that these initiatives do no harm, and has published a new handbook on equality and discrimination for CLTS facilitators.

Shared sanitation: lack of standards excludes residents in informal settlements

Vasco Schelbert (EAWAG) explained that shared sanitation facilities are predominant in low-income and informal settlement in cities. They can take many forms: shared between households, public or community toilets. However, shared facilities are not considered a basic service under the JMP ladder for sanitation, which is used to monitor the SDGs. For this reason, public authorities and NGOs alike do not invest in these solutions, which is excluding a service which people in informal settlements use and need. EAWAG is working on standards to be able to assess the quality of shared sanitation services, with a view to incorporate this in global monitoring systems such as the JMP.

The role of bilateral donors such as the Swiss Development Cooperation

Nadia Benani (SDC) emphasised the role of donors in raising awareness in relation to issues which are uncomfortable but need to be addressed to help the most vulnerable. She highlighted the need for donors to move away from the concept of "trickle down economics" in order to focus on the poorest and most marginalised people in society. The magnitude of people excluded in the WASH sector is huge – half of the world's population do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. SDC's approach is to engage with a range of partners in order to promote innovative approaches which support vulnerable people.


The rapporteur, Soraya Kohler (Swiss Water Partnership), concluded that many barriers in the WASH sector still need to be overcome for marginalised and vulnerable populations for the goal of universal access to WASH to be achieved. We need to ensure that issues around equality and discrimination – and on the Leave no one behind concept more broadly – remains on the agenda in international development and in the water sector more specifically.


Jun 13
Water Team Days 2019 Eastern Europe and Central Asia - Day 3

The morning started with a session about Best Practices to Address Sustainability. Therefore, we had three presentations. Started with the one about the Regional Capacity Development Network, followed by one about the MEG Project and Performance based approach with partner water utilities in Albania, and discussions.

In case clinics we discussed potential solutions for challenges the case-givers are facing. The cases were from SCO Tadjikistan about reform process and donor coordination, from SHUKALB Albania about capacity development, from Oxfam Tadjikistan about asset management and from EPSN Moldova about inclusion and leaving no one behind.

In the afternoon we got informed through presentations from SECO and SDC the newest evolutions and strategies. In the following, we elaborated future activities of the Sub-RésEAU of Eastern Europe and Central Asia in a group work.

Jun 12
Water Team Days 2019 Eastern Europe and Central Asia - Day 2

Second day of the Regional Water Team Days was focused on field visits and validation.
The participants were familiarised with the context with introductory presentations on the preparation and implementation of infrastructure projects, policy dialogue and accompanying measures, followed by the guided tout to Bihac Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)

To discuss key challenges and solutions regarding sustainability of wastewater infrastructure a structured dialogue with the Mayor of Bihac and local governance officials was organised.

In Cazin we visited a decentralized wastewater treatment system, constructed wetlands. The Mayor of Cazin as well as the director of Public Utility Company and their associates provided us with all the interesting background knowledge.

On the way back to Bihac we stopped at the Ostrozac Castle and learned a lot about its history.

Jun 11
Water Team Days 2019 Eastern Europe and Central Asia - Day 1

Today the Regional Water Team Days of the Sub-RésEAU Eastern Europe and Central Asia in Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, started.

Objective of these RWTD is to learn and share experience and evidence-based knowledge on topic of common interest and to plan activities of the EECA Sub-RésEAU.
Thematic focuses are:
Topic 1. Wastewater Treatment
Wastewater treatment is a key component of Swiss projects in the Western Balkans and Central Asia.
Topic 2. Water and sanitation as entry point for improved governance
Provision and improvement of concrete services such as water can be an important “entry point” for
building capacities of local public administration for planning, budgeting and management.

Day 1 focused on understanding the thematic focuses: wastewater treatment and water and sanitation as entry point for improved governance.
Introductory inputs were provided on Swiss cooperation overview in the region - why water and wastewater as entry points for good governance, Exploring the mutual reinforcing link between water and governance and Mapping key challenges for sustainable wastewater treatment plat operation.
The following inputs were seven case studies, presented through poster presentations.

In the afternoon, we started the group work in two thematic groups for wastewater treatment and local governance. For the first phase, each of these thematic groups was split into two regional groups in which the main challenges, requirements and stakeholders were analysed. The results were compared and discussed interregionally, before being presented in the plenary.

The day ended with a voluntary visit to the museum and a joint dinner next to the Una river.

May 29
Water Team Days 2019 Africa – Day 3

*** Version française ci-dessous***

The focus of the last day laid on the development of the Sub-RésEAU Africa. Therefore, Hanna Capeder gave an introduction about the RésEAU itself with its structure and instruments. She shared the learnings of the other Sub-RésEAUs.

In poster presentations we got to know each other’s work better and set a ground for the development of the Sub-RésEAU Africa. This was conducted in the form of an open space. Therefore, participants proposed important topics they would like to tackle. The four main topics New technologies, peace and water, youth and water in institutions were identified and corresponding groups were formed. In a mapping, the current situation was pointed out and the groups made concrete action plans, which were presented in the plenary.

We are looking forward to see many of these action set into place. At this point, I would like to thank all the participants for their contributions, and all the people that made this first Regional Water Team Days of the Sub-RésEAU Africa possible.


Le focus de la dernière journée été sur le développement du Sous-RésEAU Afrique. C'est pourquoi Hanna Capeder a présenté le RésEAU lui-même avec sa structure et ses instruments. Elle a partagé les leçons tirées des autres Sous-RésEAUs.

Des présentations de posters nous ont permis de mieux connaître le travail des uns et des autres et de jeter les bases du développement du Sous-RésEAU Afrique. Elle s'est déroulée sous la forme d'un espace ouvert. Les participants ont donc proposé des sujets importants qu'ils aimeraient aborder. Les quatre thèmes principaux - Nouvelles technologies, paix et eau, jeunesse et eau dans les institutions - ont été identifiés et des groupes correspondants ont été formés. Dans un mapping, la situation actuelle a été mise en évidence et les groupes ont élaboré des plans d'action concrets, qui ont été présentés en plénière.

Nous attendons avec impatience que bon nombre de ces mesures soient mises en place. A ce stade, je voudrais remercier tous les participants pour leurs contributions, et toutes les personnes qui ont rendu possible cette première édition des Regional Water Team Days du Sous-RésEAU Afrique.

May 28
Water Team Days 2019 Africa – Day 2

*** Version française ci-dessous***

The second day of the Africa RWTD was dedicated to a field visit to get a practical insight into how leaving no one behind is implemented in practice, and how it could be improved. Therefore, we visited an Urban Water Supply and Sanitation project implemented by the World Bank in the peri-urban area of Niamey.

The first stop was a school and kindergarten, where the project constructed latrines, including with disabled access. The participants then went on to the Koubia sludge treatment plant, the first and only sludge treatment plant of Niger. Finally, we visited a sample of public water points and social connections to the water network.


In honour of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Madame Coulibaly Rahila, director of school health from the ministry of secondary education in Niger, initiated a discussion about menstrual health in Niger. Some of the conclusions of the discussion were that it is important to break the taboo around menstrual health, and that it is the responsibility of all; government, schools and parents, fathers in the same way as mothers.


In the afternoon, the field visit was discussed in three groups that focused on different aspects of leaving no one behind within the visited projects, such as:

1. How were vulnerable groups identified, and who are these groups?

2. What are the obstacles and opportunities for vulnerable groups to participate in planning and decision-making in the context of the project?

3. What instruments have been put in place to enable vulnerable groups to participate in planning and decision-making? And how successful have these efforts been?  

This day ended with a Water Cinema, during which five participants shared interesting videos of their projects and initiatives.


La deuxième journée des Regional Water Team Days de la région Afrique a été consacrée à une visite de terrain afin d'avoir un aperçu pratique de la façon dont le thème de la rencontre « Ne laisser personne de côté » est mis en œuvre dans la pratique, et comment il pourrait être amélioré. Nous avons donc visité un projet d'approvisionnement en eau et d'assainissement urbain mis en œuvre par la Banque mondiale dans la zone périurbaine de Niamey.

Tout d'abord, nous sommes allés dans une école et un jardin d'enfants, où le projet a construit des latrines, y compris pour les handicapés. Les participants se sont ensuite dirigés vers la station de traitement des boues de Koubia, la première et unique station de traitement des boues du Niger. Enfin, nous avons visité un échantillon de points d'eau publics et de connexions sociales au réseau d'eau.

En l'honneur de la Journée de l'hygiène menstruelle, Madame Coulibaly Rahila, directrice de la santé scolaire au ministère de l'enseignement secondaire du Niger, a lancé une discussion sur la santé menstruelle au Niger. Certaines des conclusions de la discussion étaient qu'il est important de briser le tabou entourant la santé menstruelle, et que c'est la responsabilité de tous : gouvernement, écoles et parents, pères de la même manière que les mères.

Dans l'après-midi, la visite sur le terrain a été discutée en trois groupes qui se sont concentrés sur différents aspects du thème « ne laisser personne de côté » dans le projet visité, tels que :

1. Comment les groupes vulnérables ont-ils été identifiés et qui sont ces groupes ?

2. Quels sont les obstacles et les possibilités pour les groupes vulnérables de participer à la planification et à la prise de décision dans le contexte du projet ?

3. Quels instruments ont été mis en place pour permettre aux groupes vulnérables de participer à la planification et à la prise de décisions ? Et dans quelle mesure ces efforts ont-ils été couronnés de succès ? 

Cette journée s'est terminée par un « cinéma de l'eau », au cours duquel cinq participants ont partagé des vidéos intéressantes sur leurs projets et initiatives.


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