Mainstreaming Gender in Urban Sanitation and Rural Infrastructure Projects

In some provinces of Indonesia, the daily chore of carrying bucket loads of water from a source to home has fallen on the shoulders of the village's women. Photo credit: ADB.

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Efforts to provide rural infrastructure and sanitation facilities can be opportunities for gender mainstreaming.


The Urban Sanitation and Rural Infrastructure Support to Program Nasional Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Mandiri Project in Indonesia aimed to provide access to basic infrastructure and services to rural areas and improved sanitation facilities for the urban poor. The implementation of this community-driven effort took into consideration several gender issues, such as:

  • domestic responsibilities and sociocultural stereotypes limiting the degree and nature of women’s participation in communal forums;
  • differences in the control over community resources and facilities by men and women limiting participation by women in this type of effort; and
  • societal barriers restricting their involvement in the decision-making process through the provision of hygiene and sanitation services are often considered as their tasks.

These issues needed to be addressed to secure the full realization of the project.

Project Snapshot

  • 05 August 2011 : Approval Date
  • 23 November 2016 : Close Date

  • $95,554,168 : Actual Loan Amount

  • Financing :
  • Financing :
    • Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction
  • Executing agency :
    • Directorate General of Human Settlements, Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Indonesia
  • Others :
    • 600 rural communities (villages) in four provinces in Indonesia, and 1,350 poor urban neighborhoods in 34 cities in five provinces

Water-borne diseases have a high cost in terms of health among those without access to improved water and sanitation. Two of the most important causes of mortality for children under 5 years of age are fecal-borne diseases. Some 30% of Indonesians suffer from these, including cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid fever.

In Lanbauw village in Lampung province, for example, the quality of water was poor and not suitable for domestic use. Women spent much time and effort to get water from drainage channels for their husbands and children and rarely had time for anything other than their domestic tasks. Most would fail to attend community meetings during which residents discuss community projects. Some were not allowed by their husbands to get involved. Consequently, those who were able to attend these meetings were too shy to voice out their concerns as these meetings were dominated by men.


The project integrated the following elements in the project gender action plan to address the gender issues:

  • women are represented in community implementation organizations with at least 40% female membership in each organization;
  • at least 40% of participants in consultation and socialization forums and activities are women;
  • at least 40% of the elected members of each community implementation organization are women;
  • at least 30% of participants in capacity development are women;
  • at least 40% of participants in meetings to formulate village development and specific investment plan are women;
  • at least 30% of community facilitators are women;
  • separate women’s meetings so that women’s needs are adequately reflected in village and neighborhood plans;
  • complete gender audit for each selected community investment to make sure that it reflects the needs of both men and women;
  • equal representation and participation by men and women in all consultation activities related to sanitation improvement and behavioral change in the community;
  • at least 40% of those who are responsible for operation and maintenance of the communal sanitary facilities are women; and
  • at least 30% of participants in training, briefing, and the campaign related to the improvement of personal, domestic, and environmental hygiene are men.

Strategic Changes in Gender Relations

The project has led to some strategic benefits at the community level with a special focus on women.

  • Women gaining a voice. The separate meetings for women allowed them to speak freely about their ideas, opinions, and needs. Similarly, they suggested that the project activities and efforts had boosted their confidence and self-esteem with respect to speaking out during community meetings where men were present.
  • Renewed perception of women. The involvement of men and women in project activities has likewise improved their relations. The opportunities provided to women to carry out project activities, such as bookkeeping and report preparation has improved men’s perception of women. Male members of community implementation organizations indicated that the involvement of women helped them to better manage and implement the project. Because the female members were very good in preparing reports, including financial reports, the male members frequently relied on them to do the reports. Their presence also at meetings encouraged other women to attend and become actively involved.
  • Community ownership. The active involvement of women in the preparation of planning documents also helped to ensure these reflected the needs and interests of the majority of the residents. This boosted the acceptance and ownership of the project by the community.

Overall Project Outcome

The project delivered on its promise to provide better access to infrastructure and services and improved sanitation facilities for the poor, near poor, and women in project communities.

  • Women now have better access to nearby markets where they could trade farm produce. The improved facilities reduced transport costs significantly and helped increase household incomes (including those of women).
  • The provision of water supply facilities helped to reduce the time spent collecting water by as much as 50%. The time savings enabled women to participate more actively in social events held in the village, and take better care of their children and other family members.
  • Open defecation was reduced, thereby improving living conditions and contributing to a reduction in the incidence of water-borne diseases, and reducing health-related expenses and time spent by women caring for sick family members.

The project also provided additional income for village residents through job opportunities at construction sites. Of the 303,000 person-months of employment opportunities, about 16% (48,500 person-months) went to women.

The project provided capacity development opportunities both for men and women. Training for community members significantly improved their skills. Women were able to apply their new skills in their day-to-day household management.


Gender mainstreaming should always be part of projects and policymaking. By considering gender equality through the implementation of a gender action plan, projects will be able to address the concerns and needs of all members of the project community.

Involving both men and women in project activities will contribute significantly to achieving the project targets of strengthening capacity for community planning and development. This will then lead to improved community planning, which would, in general, reflect community needs, interests, and priorities (including those of women).

Training for government staff, and particularly local staff, is a must to improve their capacity to provide services to both women and men. In this project, staff training encouraged some local governments to adopt the community-driven Program Nasional Pemberdayaan Masyarakat approach for delivering services to their communities. Gender training will also ensure that staff members will be able to provide gender-sensitive services to women.

Siti Hasanah
Urban Development Specialist, Water and Urban Development Sector Office, Sectors Group, Asian Development Bank

Siti Hasanah manages ADB-financed projects and activities for the urban development and water sector. Prior to ADB, she was a staff at the Ministry of Public Works in Indonesia. She holds a master's degree in city planning from the University of California, Berkely.

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