How does the toolkit reflect pacific values?

In this booklet we refer to GESI, which is short for “gender equality and social inclusion”. Every person experiences the world in a unique way, based on their identity and circumstances. This toolkit acknowledges the great diversity of lived experiences, including living with disability – an ongoing (visible or invisible) condition of the body or mind that makes certain activities and interactions difficult. It also includes a person’s individual sense and experience of their gender (male, female or nonbinary, etc.) and sexual orientation (bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, queer), among a number of other types of lived experiences. In addition to this diversity, the toolkit is based on intersectionality – the understanding that inequalities and oppression are dependent on overlapping identities and experiences.

When groups or individuals with certain identities or lived experiences are marginalised, they experience disproportionate difficulty in participating in society or accessing resources and opportunities, as compared to other groups. Marginalisation occurs both intentionally and unintentionally, and at multiple levels of society. In WASH it includes, for example, girls dropping out of school due to inadequate access to sanitation facilities for managing their menstrual cycles, sanitation facilities that are not disability-accessible barring people with disabilities from safe sanitation practices, or low-income neighbourhoods not having access to tap water. Vulnerability refers to characteristics or systems that put groups or individuals disproportionately at risk of harm. Marginalised groups are also often vulnerable to harm from disease, natural disasters, or social unrest/political instability.

Practitioners need to reflect on their own – and their team’s – beliefs and ways of working; and they need to consider the consequences of their actions upon those around them. Much of the water and sanitation infrastructure or technology installed during “humanitarian” or “development” projects comes from high-resource settings and is often – mistakenly – seen by implementers as “neutral” or “apolitical”. But when individuals or groups with certain identities are left out of the design process, practitioners run the risk of designing “solutions” that don’t work for everyone and may actually cause harm. Gender and socially inclusive participatory design of WASH infrastructure helps practitioners identify their assumptions about what a community needs, prevents putting marginalised groups or individuals at increased risk, and ultimately improves project outcomes and sustainability through community engagement and ownership.

Mutual knowledge exchange between local residents and those responsible for delivering water and sanitation infrastructure ensures that the infrastructure is fit for purpose and delivers value for money. Inclusion is sustainability; inclusive participatory design of water and sanitation infrastructure means that a broader cross-section of the community invests in using and maintaining the infrastructure over a longer time.

Supporting meaningful participation is critical to doing no harm. It refers to making a conscious effort to ensure that no negative consequences occur to anyone – including unintended consequences. Programs designed to transform social norms can foster backlash and violence directed at the very people the program intended to support. Do No Harm requires an organisational commitment and capacity to understand and respond to impacts of water and sanitation infrastructure design and implementation upon those affected. This includes reviews of approaches, tools, processes and systems, in order to minimise context-specific risks of harm and to promote GESI and monitoring and accountability mechanisms.

Safe and equitable access for all to water, sanitation and hygiene is considered an important right in itself. A “rights-based approach” to WASH incorporates key civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights into provision of WASH services, including rights to non-discrimination, equality, water, sanitation, health, housing, Indigenous self-determination and meaningful participation. Leaving No One Behind in WASH delivery means recognising each person’s human right to water and sanitation and acting to decrease inequalities between different groups and populations as quickly and effectively as possible. But it also relates to the effectiveness and sustainability of water and WASH interventions, i.e. harnessing the capacities and knowledge of all in communities.