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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Access to improved drinking water facility is one of the vital requirements for a prosperous life. 

The benefits of access to a clean and efficient drinking water source is useful only if there is also access to sanitation and effective hygiene practices. Advantages of access to water, sanitation and hygiene – WASH – has larger socio-economic impacts, particularly for health and development of women and girls. That is why WASH is included within the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) of the United Nations Organisation. The UN General Assembly 2010 recognised access to water and sanitation as Human rights. 

Indeed, access to WASH will help to bring in efficient and sustainable infrastructure for the use of rural and urban poor. It can ease the journey towards the SDGs dealing with poverty, work and economic growth, as well as gender equity. Inefficient water access and sanitation facilities put more burden on women and girls who are the ones mainly work for collecting water and take care of the household cleanliness and sanitation.  

The involvement of women in economic activity in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in India is increasing. The women usually have strong social motivations, and are also responsibile for household budgetary management in Indiam family setup. Most of the time it is the woman of the family who adjust to meet the ends. Thus WASH programs and policies promoting involvement in economic activities need more nuanced consideration of women’s empowerment. 

Sanitation and hygiene are both Political as well as public health issues. Policy making regarding WASH must be careful to be inclusive. Community led total Sanitation programmes such as Swacch bharat campaign of Government of India has been sensitive to the issues faced by women. A UNICEF study (2017) has found that 87% women feel safer after getting a toilet at home. Including Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) has the potential to increase women’s participation in Sanitation programmes and to promote MHM specific Sanitation and hygiene needs of women, by women, for women. 

Consideration of Menstrual hygiene management within public Sanitation programmes can provide the women with more privacy, convinience, saftey, and comfort, as well as employment opportunities and gender equity. Incorporating the cultural beliefs and practices with the strategies for Menstrual hygiene management shall improve the acceptance and involvement of women from rural settings of a pluralistic, culturally diverse country like India.

Poor Menstrual hygiene practices themselves can have health implications for women. Poor cleaning habits may cause urinary tract infections. Unscientific disposal of Sanitary napkins causes garbage disposal issues. 

Lack of WASH facilities and sanitary materials in schools can be critical for menstruating girls and teachers. Lack of access to Sanitary materials may affect psychological well-being and cause shame. 

Information, awareness raising and opportunities for dialogue along with inclusive, sustainable infrastructure development is essential for effective WASH programming.

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