Water, sanitation and hygiene services are often promoted as critical for women’s empowerment and gender equality. Tools for monitoring water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) have focused largely on technical standards related to public health outcomes, overlooking those related to broader human wellbeing such as gender and social equality.

The EWI can be used to assess gender outcomes of a WASH intervention and to monitor changes over time. Drawing on a multi-level conceptualization of empowerment, the EWI is comprised of a suite of indicators at individual, household, and societal levels. The EWI uses responses collected from a male and female respondent at the same household, and represents the proportion of women and men who are empowered, as well as the level of empowerment.

The findings from this pilot study in Burkina Faso highlight the importance of better understanding household- and community-level power and gender relations, such as decision-making related to household water or sanitation spending. By enabling measurement of women’s empowerment, practitioners and policy-makers can identify and incorporate more targeted strategies that address gender disparities and promote empowerment, and also monitor and evaluate their effectiveness.