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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development, Social Policy and Development

WASH, Women and Welfare: Social Protection from a Gender Perspective

Date: 7 Mar 2016

  • Time: 14.00 -16.00
  • Location: Room XXII, Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland
  • Counterpart(s): Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, Government of Finland, Government of Germany, Government of Spain
  • Project Title: Linking Social Protection and Human Rights

Official Side Event of the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council

This meeting aims to contextualize access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) within a social protection framework.

The rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, as recognized by UN Resolution 70/169, include many components—such as reducing water pollution and implementing adequate waste management—and are related to several other rights—including the right to social protection, labour rights and the rights of people with subaltern identities.

This event will examine both the existing legal frameworks, as well as efforts to incorporate a rights-based, gender-sensitive implementation of these frameworks at the country level.

There will be a video, podcast and a short report of the highlights available after the event.


WASH and the SDGs

Under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, States have agreed to fulfil their duties to rights-holders. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) state explicitly the need to ensure universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (Goal 6), social protection (Goal 1) and end discrimination against women and girls everywhere (Goal 5).

Advancing Social Protection, Women’s Rights and WASH

Recent evidence has shown that 2.4 billion people worldwide still lack access to sanitation, despite progress made under the Millennium Development Goals. This lack of access increases risk of disease and malnutrition, resulting in nearly 700,000 children under five years of age dying each year.

In addition to risk of disease, malnutrition and death, women and girls face an additional risk of sexual violence due to lack of private toilet facilities. Thus, ensuring equal and non-discriminatory access to water and sanitation through a rights-based approach is necessary to ensure an adequate standard of living for all.


  • Lucinda O’Hanlon, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Eduardo Pinto da Silva, Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations
  • Rockaya Aidara, Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council
  • PB Anand, University of Bradford
  • Maria Teresa Gutierrez, International Labour Organization
  • Valeria Esquivel (moderator), United Nations Research Institute for Social Development


The event will provided an opportunity for members of national governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations to discuss their experiences in implementing the rights to water, sanitation and social protection.

Panel 1: Existing Legal Frameworks in Implementing the Right to Water and Sanitation [Podcast]

Panel 2: Implementing Rights-based Access to WASH in a Social Protection Framework: Best Practices and Challenges [Podcast]

Event Partners


The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) is an autonomous research institute within the UN system, established in 1963, that undertakes multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues. Through its work UNRISD aims to ensure that social equity, inclusion and justice are central to development thinking, policy and practice.

In 2013, UNRISD launched the Social Protection and Human Rights platform. The platform has been designed to provide expert legal and development resources on how to better align social protection and human rights. It is targeted at policy makers, development practitioners and human rights advocates with the intention of strengthening a growing social protection community across all disciplines.


The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is at the heart of a global movement to improve sanitation and hygiene for everyone. WSSCC is the only part of the United Nations devoted solely to the sanitation and hygiene needs of the most vulnerable people around the world. Through a collaborative approach which has spanned 25 years, WSSCC has harnessed the energy and expertise of communities, NGOs, governments, international organizations and the private sector. Together with thousands of members in 150 countries, the Geneva-based Secretariat advocates for change and facilitates local solutions for the millions of people who lack access to good sanitation and hygiene.

State Sponsors

The event will be sponsored by the governments of Finland, Germany and Spain.

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Photo credit: India 3 Gender 3 by Trocaire (Common Creatives BY 2.0 via Flickr).