Accelerate Access to Resources – Land, Clean Energy, Water, and Sanitation

Improve girls’ and women’s access to resources ― land, water, sanitation, and clean energy ― and they will be healthier, wealthier, safer, and better educated.

When girls and women endure restricted access to essential resources, there are far-reaching consequences on their health, education, housing, and livelihoods. Environmental stress is increasing the strain on these resources and the women who depend on them. It is time for gender-sensitive approaches. Land is an important source of income and security for women in times of hardship. Homes equipped with reliable energy for cooking and lighting free girls and women from the burden of fuel collection. Sanitation and water facilities ensure their dignity, reduce exposure to violence, and improve overall health.

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  • Women and children spend up to 5 hours per day gathering fuel for household needs

  • Annually, girls and women spend 97 billion hours looking for a safe place to defecate and 73 billion hours fetching water

  • Worldwide, less than 20% of agricultural land is held by women

  • Each $1 invested in water and sanitation in developing countries can yield up to $5.50 in returns

  • Halving the number of people worldwide who cook with solid fuels could average $91 billion in societal benefits per year

Investing in girls and women creates a ripple effect that yields multiple benefits, not only for individual women, but also for families, communities, and countries. When women have secure land rights, their earning can increase significantly, impacting their ability to open bank accounts, save money, build credit, and make investments. Solutions focused on access to water, sanitation, and household energy can better engage half the population and break the cycle of poverty.

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Solutions in Action

  • Bringing Women to the Table in South Sudan
    Case Study

    Bringing Women to the Table in South Sudan

    Bringing Women to the Table in South Sudan

    Following the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan in 2011, SOS Sahel, an international NGO working in partnership with local groups, implemented a resource-based conflict reduction program providing women and youth with natural resource management and conflict resolution skills. Women pastoralists in the region have a reputation for being extremely influential as peacebuilders, but they had been excluded from decision-making processes. SOS Sahel engages women and marginalized groups, encouraging traditional leaders to incorporate them into formal decision-making processes. Through education tools and sessions provided to women in the communities, steering groups with women representatives were developed, and community structures were registered as legal bodies in accordance with Sudanese regulations.
  • Multi-Sector Approach to Reducing Malnutrition
    Case Study

    Multi-Sector Approach to Reducing Malnutrition

    Multi-Sector Approach to Reducing Malnutrition

    In Bangladesh, the Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities program adopted a multi-sectoral approach to improving the nutritional status of mothers and children in four remote rural areas. The framework focused on enhancing the literacy and leadership skills of girls and women, educating them about sound health and nutrition practices, and installing wells for access to safe drinking water; these interventions led to better health within the communities and a reduction in malnutrition. And by incorporating the importance of proper WASH practices, the percentage of mothers who wash their hands before food preparation rose from 60% to 94%; households with access to safe, clean water rose from 57% to 71%; and the percentage of people with access to a sanitary latrine rose from 13% to 54%.
  • SPLASH in Zambia
    Case Study

    SPLASH in Zambia

    SPLASH in Zambia

    SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene), a USAID/Zambia funded WASHplus activity, brought clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education to primary schools in Eastern Province. By providing a cleaner and safer learning environment, SPLASH aspired to improve the health, learning, and performance of pupils and teachers. Activities centered on providing safe water and adequate sanitation and adopting better hygiene practices. As part of the menstrual hygiene management component, girls’ latrines were equipped with washrooms and schools were encouraged to stock sanitary pads and other hygiene consumables, such as soap and toilet paper. The SPLASH program saw an anecdotal increase in enrollment and a 26% reduction in student absenteeism.
  • The Barefoot Approach – Women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Africa
    Case Study

    The Barefoot Approach – Women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Africa

    The Barefoot Approach – Women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Africa

    The Women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Africa work to improve the lives of the rural poor living in remote villages off the energy grids. These women, many of them grandmothers and most of them illiterate, work in the 21 least developed countries in Africa, helping to supply their communities with clean, low-cost household lighting from solar energy. Since 2005, over 140 women from Africa have trained at the Barefoot College in India. Within six months, these women learned how to fabricate, install, and maintain solar-powered household lighting systems and were capable of transforming the lives of over 2,000 families in solar-electrified villages in Africa.
  • The Greatest Predictor of Poverty in India is Landlessness
    Case Study

    The Greatest Predictor of Poverty in India is Landlessness

    The Greatest Predictor of Poverty in India is Landlessness

    An estimated 18 million families in rural India are landless and tens of millions more have insecure rights to the land they rely on. Their long-term insecurity and inability to protect and secure the land they depend on is a major predictor of poverty, seeds conflict, and hinders economic growth.38 Since 2000, Landesa has been working to change this reality. By partnering with state and central government leaders, Landesa strives to create opportunity, incentive, and security through strengthening land rights. Landesa supports the creation of policies that strengthen girls and women’s land rights, raise legal awareness, and grant homestead and farmlands to rural women. By working with Indian state government officials and Central government leaders, Landesa has reached more than one million families.40 Increasingly, leaders in India’s poorest states are recognizing that insecure land tenure is a significant hurdle to development and stability. Already, the governments of Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh have launched programs to bolster women’s and girls’ land rights.
  • WASHplus Program in Mali
    Case Study

    WASHplus Program in Mali

    WASHplus Program in Mali

    WASHplus integrated a WASH/nutrition program in the Mopti region of Mali to reach women of reproductive age and their children in 180 villages in three districts with high rates of stunting. In addition to motivating villages to collectively abandon open defecation and increasing demand for low-cost sanitation, the program places a strong emphasis on improving nutrition and hygiene practices, including handwashing, water treatment, exclusive breastfeeding, and dietary diversity through a range of behavior change approaches. Trained community health workers visit communities to educate women on WASH and also screen for undernourished children who are referred to the community health/nutrition centers for treatment.

Policy Asks

  • Engage women in efforts to advance access to affordable, safe, renewable sources of clean energy in homes and communities.

  • Establish clear legal and regulatory frameworks to protect women’s secure rights to land and inheritance.

  • Improve access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and work with communities and schools (rural and urban) to become open defecation free.

  • Ensure schools have adequate WASH facilities and provide education on menstrual hygiene management.

  • Practice girl- and woman-centered design to strengthen access to natural resources, land, water, sanitation, and affordable, clean energy.

  • Support women’s development, control, ownership, and inheritance of assets — including secure land tenure, natural resources, capital, and technology.

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