Assessing our own gender equality and social inclusion credentials

7th October 2021

Earlier this year, the Sanitation Learning Hub team published a call for applicants to undertake a gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) audit of the programme to identify how GESI issues are addressed in our activities and internal organisation processes. Over April and May, a team of gender and social inclusion experts from the Water for Women Fund reviewed publications and internal policies, undertook interviews with partners and facilitated the team through a GESI self-assessment tool.

All the data collected was then shared with the team through an online validation, reflection and action planning workshop. The self-assessment tool has now been published for others to use. This blog outlines our experience of the process.

Why do the audit?

The SLH team wanted to see if we were indeed delivering what we wanted to achieve, see where our strengths were as well as weaknesses and areas which needed more attention and development. In addition, we wanted to see how our activities could better support more transformative change. Finally, we wanted to practise what we preach, and open ourselves up to the type of scrutiny we have in the past proposed for others.

What are we doing well?

The audit team found we had ‘a clear and long-standing commitment to women’s empowerment, considerable work on disability, a track record in addressing poverty and rural development, and a strong theoretical and practical orientation towards a ‘leave no one behind’ approach’. And encouraged us to continue keep a focus in publications and activities on strengthening opportunities for the empowerment of women in all their diversities.

They also commended our approach to partnership, with a commitment to equality and mechanisms in place to receive feedback. They also highlighted that the IDS strategy was an excellent example of a twin track approach – both targeting and mainstreaming GESI.

What could be strengthened?

It was found that the Hub could do better at mainstreaming GESI across our broader portfolio of work. Racism/decolonisation, age, sexual and gender minorities, urban poverty and sanitation and working with men as role models for gender equality were all flagged as GESI topics the Hub could focus on in the future. The audit team also suggested that the Hub make GESI considerations explicit across all its publications.

A suggested starting point for this was creating clear statements of key terms such as decolonisation, gender transformative WASH and inclusion and then stating publicly what our commitments to them are. We were also challenged to increase our engagement with rights holders’ organisations, strengthen our GESI monitoring processes and do more work to clarify and apply intersectionality into our work.

Next steps

As a team we agreed to:

  • Ensure the project continued to focus on issues of equity, inclusion, extreme poverty and marginlisation
  • Maintain a culture, within the team and amongst our many partners and collaborators, of sharing, learning and listening.
  • Continue to invest in GESI-specific monitoring
  • Work with Water for Women to develop and promote the GESI self-assessment tool.

What we need to start doing:

  • Engage more with rights holders organisations (RHOs) through our activities – we have already undertaken immediate action on this mapping RHOs and civil society networks in a number of key countries as well as providing a new avenue for those working with communities directly through our amplifying practitioner voices initiative.
  • Develop a SLH GESI policy/strategy
  • Identify and undertake GESI-related training for our staff

Our reflections:

  • The process helped us critically analyse both our strengthens and weaknesses, with a focus on where we can build on what we were already doing well as well as new avenues we had not yet considered.
  • It also helped identify various specific ways our work could be better aligned with the twin track approach – having specific GESI related workstreams as well as building it as a component into others
  • It has ensured a renewed and explicit focus on GESI related priorities and activities.
  • It has also affected how we communicate our engagement on this topic – we need to be crystal clear about our stance on GESI issues, and not rely on implicit messaging.
  • Finally, it was an experience which motivated the team and brought fresh ideas to the surface.

If you are interested in undertaking a similar assessment, the Hub along with Water For Women have published the self-assessment tool, to be found here.


The Sanitation Learning Hub

The Sanitation Learning Hub is a participatory and action-oriented programme aimed at promoting & facilitating timely, relevant and actionable learning and research in the Sanitation and Hygiene sector.