Abstract

In low- and middle-income countries, a common component of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions is the goal of empowerment of beneficiaries, particularly poor households. Empowerment is viewed as an important development goal in itself, as well as a way to obtain improved WASH outcomes. However, empowerment is a complex and multi-dimensional concept, and it is often not clear how it is defined in WASH sector programming. This scoping review explores how concepts of empowerment have been used in the WASH sector and delineates relevant empowerment dimensions. Medline, Embase, and Global Health databases were searched for in the peer-reviewed literature published in English. A total of 13 studies were identified. Five major interrelated empowerment dimensions were identified: access to information, participation, capacity building, leadership and accountability, and decision-making. This review provides researchers and practitioners with a greater understanding of dimensions of empowerment that are relevant for strengthening WASH interventions, as well as tracking progress toward gender and social equality outcomes over time. This understanding can help ensure inclusive WASH service delivery to achieve gender-sensitive Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets for universal water and sanitation access.

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