There is an unequal distribution in access to WASH services, goods and knowledge. Investments in the WASH sector suffer from an urban bias, a bias towards upper and middle classes, a bias towards politically favoured ethnic groups and towards the male. Specific groups, like the poor, women, and minorities are often excluded, which deepens discrepancies in health, wealth and wellbeing, thus creating tensions in society that ultimately leads to conflict. Also due to scarcity water increasingly becomes a source of social and political conflict.
Although access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right has been accepted by many governments, policies and actions to enforce this right have not always been developed. WASH programmes and investments are often developed around what an organisation, institute or company can supply, not taking into account local demand and not building on the current existing positive local practices, knowledge, and attitudes.
Social sustainability will contribute to WASH interventions being sustainable through ensuring that:
The focus of the WASH Alliance, especially from a social sustainability perspective, is on women and girls. Women and girls are powerful change agents. Investing in women has a high leverage rate, because they are known to be responsible credit takers. They are also the ones that suffer most from the lack of water and sanitation facilities, because of their traditional role as care takers.
To empower them is to bring about change within a household, and a community. They are for instance responsible for the task of fetching water. Women have to care for the household and also for their children. A water point nearby the house and a latrine with privacy are direct improvements for the livelihood of women and children: less time spent fetching water; less exposure to physically and sexually dangerous situations; more time for attending school or earning activities.