Empowering Women in Water and Sanitation: A Path to Equality

Water and sanitation operators are critical players in the efforts to achieve sustainable, equitable, and universal access to services, and I believe that women have a central to play as powerful agents of change.”

Faustina Boachie
Chief Manager at Ghana Water Company Limited, Accra/
President of the Network of Professional Women in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WiWASH)


In line with UN-Habitat’s mission, GWOPA prioritizes gender mainstreaming and inclusive urban basic services within water utilities and WOPs. By collaborating with members and partners, we actively advocate for these strategies, aiming to inspire collective change towards a gender-equal world.

GWOPA is regularly undertaking initiatives in the following areas to promote gender equality with utilities and sanitation providers:

  1. Amplifying the Voices of Women: GWOPA actively highlights and promotes the achievements and contributions of women in the water and sanitation sector. Through various platforms, including conferences, webinars, and publications, we showcase the success stories of women leaders, professionals, and innovators, providing inspiration and role models for others.
  1. Knowledge Sharing Initiatives: GWOPA facilitates the exchange of knowledge and best practices related to gender mainstreaming in the water and sanitation sector. We organise workshops, training sessions, and online forums where professionals can learn from each other’s experiences, gain new insights, and access resources to support gender equality initiatives within their organizations.
  1. Networking and Mentorship: GWOPA fosters networks and mentorship opportunities to support women’s advancement and empowerment in the water and sanitation sector. Through mentorship programs, peer-to-peer support networks, and matchmaking initiatives, we connect aspiring women professionals with experienced mentors and peers who can provide guidance, advice, and encouragement in their career development journey.

GWOPA strives to create a more inclusive and equitable water and sanitation sector where women have equal opportunities to participate, lead, and thrive. Read more of our concrete activities below:

Amplifying the Voices of Women in Water: Bridging Gender Gaps in Utilities

Water and sanitation are male-dominated sectors. To understand the challenges women in water utilities face, GWOPA launched the “WO(P)MEN’s Voice” campaign in 2023 to inspire everyone, especially youth and women, and improve gender equality in the WOP sector. Five women working in utilities in Mali, the Philippines, Argentina, Nigeria, and Ghana shared their visions that can create a gender-equal and inclusive water sector.

  • Access to STEM Education: Despite increasing numbers of girls in school, gender norms still affect their opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with women representing only 20% of the workforce in public water utility operators in 2022, according to the study from World Bank. Access to quality education and role models is crucial for empowering women in STEM careers, including those in the water sector.
  • Enabling Environment in the Utility Sector: There is a growing recognition of growing recognition of the need to ensure gender equality in the water sector, but more efforts are needed to close the gaps. Utilities like Waterlink, AySA S. A., and Ghana Water provide support such as daycare, parental leave, and gender equality departments to promote women’s advancement.
  • Engaging Men in Advocating Women’s Rights: Men play a significant role in empowering women, as seen in examples where male colleagues encourage women to take on higher positions. Shifting gender norms positively impacts workplace inclusivity, but more efforts are needed to create gender-inclusive environments.

          Read the full article: WO(P)MEN’s Voices

GWOPA has also produced a podcast called WOPcast, an episode on Women in Water and Sanitation Utilities and WOPs showing that utilities can only improve their performance and achieve SDG6 and the Human Right to Water and Sanitation if they include the gender perspective, both in their service provision and their organizational structure. And for this year’s  International Women’s Day, GWOPA member Euphresia Luseka published a blog post on Gender Responsive Procurement in Africa`s Water Sector as a Women`s rights issue.

Advancing Gender and Inclusion: Knowledge Sharing Initiatives

GWOPA have been organising workshops and webinars on gender and inclusion for EU-WOP programme partners. A workshop aimed to share experiences in the working area of “gender mainstreaming and social inclusion” reflected on the methodologies adopted by different projects and extended peer support mechanisms for each EU-WOP partnership. The EU-WOP event followed an open webinar on “tools for diagnosing gender, diversity, and inclusion in water and sanitation utilities,” presenting existing tools that can support gender, diversity, and inclusion diagnosis in water and sanitation utility employment and service provision. Watch the online webinar here.


Empowering Through Connection: Networking and Mentorship

The Global WOPs Community hosted on Workplace serves as a dynamic platform for advancing gender mainstreaming and empowering women in the water and sanitation sector by facilitating knowledge sharing, networking, mentorship, visibility, recognition, collaboration, and partnership among stakeholders worldwide. Register here today if you are not yet part of it.

During the 5th Global WOP Congress, a dedicated session was held on the importance of adopting a gender lens for the future of water and sanitation jobs and a speed mentoring workshop, “Together: Women’s Mentoring Breakfast”, for female water and sanitation professionals. This workshop created peer support and comradeship in an unequal environment where women could address gender-specific challenges they have encountered and could seek advice on how to overcome them or share their experiences.
For inquiries on our gender thematic area, please reach out to Franziska Volk, GWOPA’s Gender Focal Point, at franziska.volk@un.org.
Stronger Together: Women’s Mentoring Breakfast at the 5th Global WOPs Congress ©GWOPA/UN-Habitat