Women in WASH

In Cambodia, less than 15% of toilet businesses are run by women. We want to change that.

Why a Women in WASH Program?

We often hear how women bear the burden of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene. They spend time collecting water, caring for sick children, etc. These are fine reasons to include women in WASH programming.


But we shouldn’t have to explain why.

If we are actually serious about creating a robust and sustainable system for public health (or almost anything else), we can’t ignore the roles of women. Women as customers. Women as community leaders. Women as business owners. Women in government.

Meet the women leading the toilet industry in Cambodia

Our approach

Strengths based – rural women are used to NGOs focusing on what’s lacking, which can obscure opportunities within reach. We support women to focus on those opportunities – to leverage their existing strengths and assets in order to improve themselves and to build each other up.

Build networks – one of the best resources for professional development is a network of peers and mentors. In rural Cambodia many women are relatively isolated, relying almost completely on their male family members for career information and advice. With a more diverse network, many women can begin to identify ways to capitalize on their potential and overcome the perennial barriers to professional and entrepreneurial endeavours.

In keeping with our philosophy to build and strengthen local systems, network-building enables local solutions that are less reliant on external NGO-led interventions.

Not just handicrafts – we support women to identify their own opportunities across any sector. WASH supply chains, like construction and heavy industries, are traditionally male-dominated. The women engaged in our program uncover opportunities far beyond weaving and crochet – in distribution, sales, and production.

Sustained engagement – no one-off workshops or high per diems. We offer a diverse and ongoing set of touchpoints and support with tools, training, peer and group mentorship, and workshops designed and led by Cambodian women.

  • We work collective

    A business skills training and mentorship program to improve the productivity and decision-making power of women in the WASH market. More than 200 members from across the country are participating in workshops and form peer-support groups that will help strengthen their business planning skills, financial literacy and leadership.

  • Marketing by Women

    Currently, less than a third of WaterSHED-supported representatives that promote clean water filters, toilets, and portable sinks are women. We are using an action research method to uncover the challenges women face as sellers and designing new ways to better recruit and retain them in the market.

  • Marketing to Women

    Women are the primary caregiver in Cambodia and often instigate purchases of toilets, water filters, and sinks to protect their families health. We are adapting the current marketing materials to reflect women’s concerns and motivations as customers of WASH products.

  • Research

    A key component of this program is to experiment, to capture what we learn, and to share that with the world. In addition to various studies we will produce practical, actionable guidelines for businesses, NGOs, and governments so that others can leverage the power of an inclusive market.

On our blog

“… current incomes such as income and education miss the full picture.” How do we measure women’s empowerment.

Read our blog