Water and Gender Methodology, Indicators and Toolkit

© Laurens Thuy

Sex-disaggregated data is key to make effective assessments of how women and men experience access to water and sanitation differently. Without it, it is not possible to fully measure progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.

In contrast, sex-disaggregated water data are among the least available across the national-level indicators. Its lack is a major obstacle to the production of scientific evidence on gender inequalities related to water and to the formulation of policies and programmes that tackle those inequalities.

Therefore, UNESCO WWAP has been working since 2014 in this field, through the creation of an innovative methodology, indicators, and tools for the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data.

The UNESCO WWAP Toolkit on Sex-disaggregated Water Data (first edition released in 2015, second edition released in 2019) represents the first ever initiative aiming to achieve a global standard for gender-responsive water assessment, monitoring and reporting. This has been made possible thanks to the contribution from the Government of Italy.

The positive response of the Member States with regard to the first edition (2015) of the Toolkit (figure 1) inspired the development of a second (2019) edition. Along with lessons learnt in the field during the testing of the WWAP methodology, the international acknowledgement of the interlinkage between the Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda served as an important driver for the 2019 edition of the 2015 WWAP Toolkit.

The 2019 edition consists of 4 Tools:

  • Tool 1 ‘Gender-responsive indicators for water assessment, monitoring and reporting’ features 105 gender-responsive indicators in 10 priority topics (Box 2) aligned with the 2030 Agenda;
  • Tool 2 ‘Methodology for the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’ describes the methodology for data collection;
  • Tool 3 ‘Guidelines on the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’ gives an overview of common data collection methods for different users and regions, whereas;
  • Tool 4 ‘Questionnaire for the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’, lists 364 questions with suggested methodologies for data collection.

The set of 4 Tools is designed to collect scientific evidence to help decision makers adopt data-driven, water policies and programmes that tackle gender inequalities and reach those left behind.

Box 2. WWAP priority topics for indicators and related SDGs

Innovative features of WWAP gender-responsive indicators:

  • support women’s empowerment and gender equality in the water sector;
  • be thematically aligned with, and positioned, to contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (Box 2);
  • be applicable and relevant across most regions, although flexible to be context-specific (by addressing sectoral and thematic concerns);
  • reflect diverse sectoral and thematic concerns;
  • be ‘feasible’ to collect;
  • contribute to transforming gender relations towards a more equitable state, and not just to account for current inequalities.


The 2015 Toolkit

The 2015 Water and Gender Toolkit forms the base of the 2019 edition. It was the first major output of WWAP’s gender-related work and saw the participation of 30 experts which formed the international “Working Group on Sex-Disaggregated Data Collection”. During two workshops held in 2014, about 100 indicators were identified, as well as a list of high-priority gender-sensitive indicators for water assessment and monitoring (Tool 1, 2). They were complemented by the 2015 Tool 3 (Guidelines) and Tool 4 (Questionnaire).


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