SDG 6 - Water and Sanitation

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cumulative hours are spent each day by girls and women collecting water globally


of households in sub-Saharan Africa rely on water sources outside the home


of all women globally lacked a toilet and a private place for menstrual hygiene management in 2015

Why SDG 6 matters for gender equality

It has been estimated that 800 million people lack access to clean water and an estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation, with girls and women feeling the greatest impact. They are responsible for water collection in 80% of households without access to running water.

Based on data across 24 sub-Saharan countries from 2005 to 2012, an estimated 13.5 million women made round trips of more than an hour each day to collect water. Those walking long distances to collect water faced the risks of sexual violence, fatigue, injuries, and bone and muscle damage, as well as waterborne diseases.

Girls collecting water each day were also more vulnerable to pregnancy, exploitative labour and school dropout. A 2011 study in Ghana found that even a 15-minute reduction in water collection time increased the share of girls attending school by up to 12%.

Poor sanitation in schools also fuels gender gaps in primary and secondary school attendance. Girls in Bolivia, for example, have reported feeling fear, shame and lack of privacy at school during menstruation. Worldwide in 2015, half a billion women lacked toilets. Studies estimate that lack of access to clean water and sanitation costs up to 7% of GDP in some countries each year.

Jessica Lomelin / Equal Measures 2030, Equal Measures 2030
Jessica Lomelin / Equal Measures 2030

Click on a box to learn about the goal’s related issues, indicators and its relevance to gender equality.

Key findings from the SDG Gender Index

  • Access to clean drinking water and sanitation:

    Access to clean drinking water and sanitation has improved dramatically in recent decades. More than half the populations of all six focus countries and over 90% of people in three countries were using at least basic drinking water services in 2015. El Salvador had the highest proportion of people using at least basic sanitation services (91%).

  • WASH policies:

    The six focus countries have designed water and sanitation policies with specific measures to target women to varying degrees: Colombia and Senegal perform well on the indicator, whereas and El Salvador and Kenya have no gender-responsive water and sanitation policies in place.

Gender Equality Issues Without Sufficient Global Data

Here we highlight the ‘missing’ critical gender equality issues that we weren’t able to include in the Index due to insufficient globally comparable data. These ‘missing’ issues can help form part of an advocacy agenda calling for more and better gender data, contributing to existing calls for gaps in gender data to be filled.

Income and resources

Intra-household income and resource allocation

Land Tenure

Adults with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognized documentation and who perceive their rights to land as secure (women and men)

Government and poverty reduction

Proportion of resources allocated by the government directly to poverty reduction programmes


Equal Measures 2030 Partners