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Photo: Sean_Warren / GettyImages

Gender and water security in Burkina Faso: lessons for adaptation

This policy brief looks at water security risks in Burkina Faso through a gender lens, providing insights on how gendered norms and practices produce differentiated risks.


In many countries, traditional divisions of labour mean that women conduct the majority of unpaid work related to the collection, transport, and management of water supplies for drinking and other domestic uses.

Women’s work on water limits time for other activities, including paid work, education or leisure, which can impact the wellbeing of the entire household. Women and girls also face different sanitation needs than men, due to social taboos and stigmas, as well as biological factors. In addition, social norms within households and communities can lead to women having less of a voice in decisions over the use of water, or the management of facilities.

These gender and power relations result in differing water security for individuals, even when they live in the same household or community. This brief explores gender-differentiated water security risks in Burkina Faso, with the aim of informing the development of adaptation strategies in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector.

Key findings:

  • Residents of Burkina Faso’s Nouaho sub-basin are exposed to water-related hazards such as inadequate quantities of water, poor sanitation, and flooding, which are exacerbated by climate change.

  • Gender roles and cultural norms related to water, such as divisions of labour, affect entitlements to water availability, affordability, accessibility and quality, producing differentiated risks for residents.

  • Long-term adaptation to water security risks is constrained by gender discrimination, particularly related to participation in local decision-making.

  • Adaptation planning in the WASH sector must go beyond technological solutions, and empower women and marginalized groups, in order to address water security risks that will be intensified by climate change.

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