CORP webinar on Impacts of COVID-19: Gender inequities in WASH

Dr Kathleen O’Reilly, Madhu Krishna, Sujoy Mojumdar, Arundati Muralidharan, Bharti, Tripti Singh, Anju Dwivedi
Wednesday, 06 May 2020 10:00 AM - Wednesday, 06 May 2020 11:30 AMAdd to Calendar 2020-05-06 04:30:59 2020-05-06 06:00:43 Title Description Location SCI-FI Asia/Kolkata public
Online via Zoom

The Scaling City Institutions for India (SCI-FI) project, Centre for Policy Research is pleased to invite you to a CORP webinar supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on

Impacts of COVID-19: Gender inequities in WASH


Speakers: Dr Kathleen O’Reilly, Madhu Krishna, Sujoy Mojumdar, Arundati Muralidharan, Bharti, and Tripti Singh

Moderator: Anju Dwivedi

Wednesday, 6 May 2020, 10:00 to 11:30 AM

The session will be online via Zoom. To register, kindly fill this form.

For any queries, please email

About the webinar
Globally, social norms purport that women shoulder a series of responsibilities in the domestic sphere that includes tending to the diverse needs of children, elderly and ill, and simultaneously deal with a load of household chores. The allocation of time to various unpaid care activities varies across gender. Men in Asia and the Pacific perform the lowest share of unpaid care work among all regions. In India, men barely spend 29 minutes (in urban) and 32 minutes (in rural areas) on care work. In contrast, women in India spend 312 minutes/day in urban areas and 291 minutes/day in rural areas on unpaid care work (ILO, 2018). A study conducted by the Centre for Policy research in 10 urban slums in Bhubaneswar reveals that in 79 per cent of households, women fetch water. In 69 per cent of households, they are responsible for solid waste disposal, in 68 per cent of households, women clean individual household latrine, and in 82 per cent of households, they take care of the ill.
Given that over 200 countries are affected by the spread of Covid-19, these gender inequities are likely to widen. Previous studies of emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks such as the Ebola and Zika crisis, reveal that gender inequities during disasters and pandemics are often more pronounced. Women provide the bulk of care to the ill, and this care work increases their risk of infection, placing enormous financial, social and psychological burden on them. Research from Liberia shows that women care providers continue to suffer from the psychological trauma for solely being responsible for those infected with Ebola. This stress is also coupled with the fear of contracting the virus and passing it to their children. The outbreak of Covid-19 has intensified gender inequity in workload related to 'care roles' during the lockdown. The current situation has necessitated the closure of schools in 188 countries to limit both the spread and risk of Covid-19. This has resulted in an increased burden for women to care for children.
Often during emergencies and disasters, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is not given due attention. For instance, in China during the outbreak of Covid, women doctors faced difficulties in ensuring safe MHM due to an acute shortage of sanitary products. In India too, adolescent girls and women from migrant groups faced tremendous difficulties managing periods while living in quarantine facilities. Given that the lockdown has now been extended, availability of sanitary products might be affected by factors like a taboo around menstruation, store closures, delay in delivery, and stock-outs.
Post-Covid-19, the vulnerability of slum dwellers living in dense informal settlements in India has increased substantially. In many urban informal settlements, they rely on common resources (common water collection points, community toilet and public toilet) for water and sanitation. Given that women disproportionately shoulder the load of fetching water, this makes it difficult for them to observe precautionary and preventive measures like social distancing. This leads to an increased probability of disease contraction for them.
Pre-existing gender inequality leaves women and girls particularly vulnerable in such crisis, increasing their care burden. Currently, to combat the ongoing public health crisis, most strategies focus on scientific and technical solutions crucial to contain the outbreak. However, there is a need to simultaneously develop gender-responsive strategies to strengthen public health preparedness and response measures.



10:00-10:05Moderator: Anju Dwivedi, Senior Researcher, CPR

10:05-10:15Global experience of WASH related gendered impacts during pandemics

Speaker: Dr Kathleen O’Reilly, Professor, Geography, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University

10:15-10:25Roadmap to mitigate gender based vulnerability in urban WASH

Speaker: Madhu Krishna, Deputy Director, BMGF, India

10:25-10:35Impact of Covid on WASH in rural India with a special focus on Women and Adolescent Girls

Speaker: Sujoy Mojumdar, WASH Specialist, UNICEF

10:35-10:45MHM supply chain during Covid: Findings from primary research

Speaker: Arundati Muralidharan, Manager – Policy, WaterAid India

10:45-10:55Locating gender at the centre of urban WASH Covid-19 Response

Speaker: Tripti Singh, Research Associate and Bharti, Senior Research Associate, CPR

Moderated Q & A

Closing Remarks


About the Speakers

Dr Kathleen O’Reilly is a Professor of Geography at the Texas A&M University. She has extensive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) experience in urban and rural India. She studies drinking water supply systems’ management and the impacts of sanitation interventions for marginal groups, particularly women and lowest castes. Her career spans over 20 years of data collection in India, research findings, dissemination, and teaching. As a Professor of Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences, she was named a Presidential Impact Fellow in October 2018. Kathleen has received research grants from the National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (UNOPS), and others to fund her work.

Madhu Krishna is a Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s India initiative on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. She has been a development professional for over 25 years, with a special focus on programme design, evaluation, policy and advocacy across initiatives including sanitation, public health, agriculture and livelihoods; and women’s empowerment. Before joining the foundation, Madhu worked for a number of organizations in the areas of maternal and child health, family planning and strategy formulation including PATH, FHI, Digital Green, Landesa, and Intra Health. She has a Master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Delhi.

Sujoy Mojumdar is a WASH Specialist at UNICEF. During a career spanning more than 25 years, Sujoy worked in various capacities in the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. With the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, he became the Director Swachh Bharat Mission, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India in October 2014. He has a Master’s degree in physics from the University of Delhi. In 1991, Sujoy joined the India Forest Service (IFS).

Dr Arundati Muralidharan is Manage-Policy (WASH in Health & Nutrition, WASH in Schools) at WaterAid India. She has more than 15 years of experience as a public health practitioner and qualitative researcher with expertise in menstrual health and hygiene management, gender and sanitation, and sexual and reproductive health. Previously, Arundati has worked with the Public Health Foundation of India, SNEHA, and Population Services International (PSI). She has a Doctorate in Public Health from Boston University and holds a Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Bharti is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Policy Research with Scaling City Institutions for India (SCI-FI) vertical. She has been associated with the SCI-FI initiative since 2019. Her work in CPR has largely centred around urban and rural water and sanitation sub-spaces entailing research studies on community participation, inclusive sanitation framework for cities and social innovation in the urban sanitation. She has also been part of the team which drafted Odisha Rural Sanitation Policy. She is Graduate in Mathematics from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University with a Masters in Rural Management from Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), Gujarat.

Tripti Singh is a Research Associate with the Centre for Policy Research. Since the last five years at CPR, she has worked with the Water and Sanitation initiative. Her current work explores socio-cultural vulnerabilities in WASH with a specific focus on gender and sanitation workers. She has a Master’s degree in Sociology from University of Mumbai.

CORP Seminar Series
This is the 21st in a series of the Community of Research and Practice (CORP) seminar hosted by the Scaling City Institution for India (SCI-FI) initiative with the support of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). This seminar series seeks to provide a platform for discussing the experiences of the researchers and practitioners on urban sanitation. 

Scaling City Institutions for India (SCI-FI): programme aims to better understand ‘governance scale’ in Indian cities in tandem with ‘sector-specific socio-economic scales’. Through research, the programme aims to inform stakeholders, including the three tiers of the government, to develop better-informed policies and programmes enabling improved governance and service delivery. It has two key thematic focus in areas of Land, Housing and Planning, and Water and Sanitation. The SCI-FI programme is nested at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) since 2013.