women with disabilities and informal settlement sanitation policy briefOn 16 August 2019, SERI released a policy brief entitled ‘Women with Disabilities and Informal Settlement Sanitation: Implications for Policy and Practice’. The policy brief was developed as a resource that would accompany the documentary, ‘The Struggle to be Ordinary’. The purpose of the policy brief and documentary are to raise awareness and build knowledge; it was to influence change in our attitudes, our thinking, our policies and our practices, as practitioners, as government officials, as decision-makers, budget holders, urban planners, activists, and most importantly, as people.

The policy brief provides an outline of the legislative and policy framework pertaining to water and sanitation provision to people with disabilities living in informal settlements covering international law and local legislation and policy. It then provides an overview of the state of sanitation in informal settlements and then goes on the set out the challenges that women with disabilities living in informal settlements face in terms of accessing adequate sanitation.

One of the biggest challenges with sanitation in informal settlements is that municipalities often only provide temporary or emergency services which are not intended to be used for longer than six months. This is largely because the upgrading of informal settlements is not being implemented. Currently, the water and sanitation services provided in informal settlements are not easily accessible especially for women and girls with disabilities because they are poorly located, often the outskirts of informal settlements. These sanitation facilities are also rendered inaccessible because:

[They] often lack space to accommodate a wheelchair, an assistive device or caregiver and also lack the ramped access and support structures such as toilet seats and handrails. The lack of required space and other necessary requirements compromises the rights to dignity and privacy of people with disabilities living in informal settlements.

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In light of these observations, the policy brief proposes two key actions:

Housing and sanitation legislation and policies need to be revised to align with international human rights instruments especially the principles of accessibility and reasonable accommodation as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and;

The Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) and the Emergency Housing Programme must be implemented in line with the accessibility and reasonable accommodation standards of the UNCRPD.


  • Download the policy brief here.
  • View the documentary here.