How can we improve Women enrollment and interest in WASH education opportunities?


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  • Chaiwe
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  • Independent consultant (capacity development, knowledge management, strategic planning, project management, M&E in WASH, climate action and, gender)
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How can we improve Women enrollment and interest in WASH education opportunities?

Dear All,

The Water Supply and Sanitation Sector has continued to remain a male dominated sector. According to a 2020 World Bank report on Women in Water Utilities, only about one in five water employees and only 23% of licensed engineers are women and the same goes for female managers within utility companies . This trend is a challenge to the sector, and posses a great disadvantage to the sector in many ways, but especially in the area of inclusive sector programming. Cultural aspects have contributed to the way Women and Men view roles that are related to water and sanitation and how they participate.

There is need for the sector to work even harder at addressing the gender imbalance and encourage women participation at decision making and implementation levels. At household level, provision of hygiene and sanitation is often considered a Women's role (depending on your geographical location). Women are promoters, educators and drivers of household and community-based sanitation practices. In spite of this, the concerns of women are rarely addressed as societal barriers usually limit women’s involvement in decision making regarding toilets, sanitation programming and projects at higher level.

Research has indicated that, an important determinant of low female representation in the WSS sector and low representation of females in technical jobs is due to the low numbers of women attaining training in the WASH technical and vocational training and beyond. In order to encourage female enrollment and interest in WASH, there is need to increase the number of scholarships for women in Science, Technology, and Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies. Financial problems contribute to low female participation and high drop-out of students. The University of Zambia for example,(to mitigate this), is now sponsoring all its Masters in Sanitation female students through a donor grant in order to make this programme more attractive. Similar to Zambia, in Tanzania, a program by the World Bank aims to encourage the enrollment of female students at the Country’s Water Institute by allocating a larger percentage of sponsored student loans to women and girls:  See Here  

International exchange programs can also encourage female participation in WSS courses. International educational and cultural exchange program allow different people from around the world to experience the different and diverse educational systems, enhance their knowledge and skills, and explore other positive cultures and values.In Zambia , a newly established sector Skills Advisory Group (SAG) aims at bringing the water and sanitation employers, employees, and skills providers together to exchange knowledge on skills and labor market needs. Among some of the activities the SAG engages in to promote female participation includes giving awards to best performing females in Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH, Plumbing and Electrical courses:  See Here 

The newly established African Women Sanitation Professionals Network- Zambia Chapter (AWSPN-ZC) advocates for enhancement of WASH skills for Women, in collaboration with the Technical Vocational Training Authorities. During the 2021 Zambia Water Forum and Exhibition (ZAWAFE), the women’s network held a mentorship session for female students pursuing water related courses. Read More Here 

Am curious to learn about what others are doing in the quest to improve the enrollment of women in WASH education and mentorship programs and arouse their interest in sector participation. Share your thoughts.

SuSanA Forum Moderator
(With financial support by GIZ from June 2021 to June 2023)

Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
Independent consultant located in Lusaka, Zambia
Emails: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @ChaiweSanderse

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  • FabianSuter
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Re: How can we improve Women enrollment and interest in WASH education opportunities?

Dear Chaiwe

Thanks for sharing the resources and launching the exchange about this topic on SuSanA. While searching for ideas and best practices on how to increase enrollment and completion rates of women in our MOOCs series "Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development" ( ), my colleague Laura Baquedano has found the FOSTWOM website ( ) which aims at promoting full & equal access for girls and women in STEM. The website includes for example this useful gender-balance checklist for STEM MOOC creators .

Best regards,
Fabian Suter
Digital learning manager
Sandec /Eawag
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