SDG 6: Water & Sanitation



global average 2019 SDG Gender Index score on SDG 6


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 toiletsStudies estimate that lack of access to clean water and sanitation costs up to 7% of GDP in some countries each year.

Plan International, Equal Measures 2030
Plan International

Issues and Indicators

The 2019 SDG Gender Index examines gender focused issues and data under SDG 6 and provides a more complete picture of both the goal itself and its relationship to gender equality. Explore the included issues and indicators below.

Indicator 6aProportion of population using at least basic drinking water services
RationaleAccess to clean drinking water from a protected external source (such as boreholes, protected springs and piped water) or in the home (whenever needed and free of contamination) is critical to the daily lives of girls and women, who bear the disproportionate burden of water collection chores that can be time-consuming and detrimental to their health.
Indicator 6bProportion of population using at least basic sanitation services
RationaleSanitation services are essential for overall development. Yet women in developing countries – particularly the poorest, most marginalised and those displaced by conflict or disaster – often rely on unsafe communal sanitation facilities that expose them to health risks and sexual violence.
Indicator 6cProportion of women who report being satisfied with water quality in the city or area where they live
RationaleWomen and girls, as the primary collectors, managers, and users of household water, are most impacted by its quality. Access to clean water close to the home can dramatically reduce women’s workloads and care burden, as it can reduce illnesses caused by contaminated water sources.