WA-WASH: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Gender Equity Work Improve Lives in Northern Ghana

WA-WASH: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Gender Equity Work Improve Lives in Northern Ghana

Publication info


In order to meet the interconnected socio-economic needs of poor communities in Ghana’s Upper West Region, CARE implemented the WA-WASH project 2012-2015.

WA-WASH Ghana had six main intervention areas:

  • Improved access to safe drinking water: Borehole construction, developing or re-energizing water committees with capacity building on finances and management, promoting women in leadership roles, re-visiting how water levies are calculated (6 communities).
  • Access to improved sanitation facilities: Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), including training local artisans on latrine construction and equipping them with tools. Research of community needs and aspirations for sanitation, handwashing demonstrations, promotion of handwashing stations (tippy taps), and collaboration with community leaders and chiefs on reducing open defecation (28 communities).
  • Gender equity promotion: Village Savings Loans Associations (VSLAs), Male champions for gender equity, engagement with traditional leaders, and developing community level action plans and awareness-raising activities (10 communities). 
  • Improved access to WASH in schools: Teacher training on hygiene and sanitation, new or rehabilitated latrines construction and handwashing stations (15 schools)
  • Food security: Land for farming activities, goat and sheep rearing, training on crop production, demonstration farms including dry season gardening, water conservation and use of solar water pumps, storage barrels (7 communities).
  • Climate change: Capacity building to develop community action plans for climate change (10 communities).


Main findings from WA-WASH Ghana

Overall, the outcomes experienced by community members in Ghana were positive and directly benefited the health, social well-being, and economic security of participants.

  • Along with better availability of safe water through borehole construction, respondents from all six water-infrastructure communities credited new water sources and water management structures with reduced diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pains. Interviewees reported that these changes benefited everyone in the community, especially children.
  • In terms of sanitation, CARE provided the initial triggering, and consistently supported communities through meetings with community members and leaders on challenges and discussing sanitation options.
  • Interviewees attributed these positive outcomes to CARE, partner WA-WASH organizations and local government efforts.

A two-year study was conducted to compare intervention communities where a full suite of gender equity-promoting activities were implemented (10), to control communities (12), that received all WASH and agricultural interventions, minus the specific focus on gender.

Findings from communities that had gender equity activities:

  • More female participation overall
  • A greater sense of unity between men and women
  • Traditional leaders changing custom to allow women to own land
  • 225 women gained access to farm plots, a total of 154 hectares

VSLA meetings served as a place of discussion, information sharing, and social support for household and community changes. When VSLAs were more participatory and successful, WASH, agricultural and health outcomes improved overall.

Findings regarding VSLAs:

  • VSLAs were far more successful in areas with gender equity promotion
  • Nearly every adult in communities with gender equity activities belonged to a VSLA (as few as half of adults in the other 12 communities were VSLA members).


Impact of CARE Ghana's Work

The impact of CARE Ghana’s work was explained well by a CARE staff member:

"While it’s difficult to say – ‘This is CARE’s work,’ ‘this is a natural change in the culture’, we know that change in the household comes as a result of exposure…Most CARE communities didn’t have any exposure—maybe some through the radio, in markets, children going away for higher education and coming back. But the way we see it, CARE really catalyzed this knowledge."

CARE initiated and catalyzed improvements in health, hygiene and sanitation behaviors, food security, and social structures and relationships in all participating WA-WASH communities. While the variety and magnitude of these changes vary by community and individual, it is clear that CARE’s role in each outcome has been informative, supportive, and consistent since the start of WA-WASH until today. Note: The 12 communities that did not initially received gender equity activities received these interventions in the months following the two-year study. 



Learn More

Want to learn more? Check out stories of success from the project. You can also look at the final outcome report.


Back to WASH