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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

A Critical Approach to the Theory of Change Based on Gender Equality

The Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) developed an articulation of how and why change happens, the Theory of Change (ToC). This tool helps them deliver more successful services for the benefit of local organisations implementing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects. However, the ToC presents several aspects which had not been fully addressed, such as gender and religious behaviours.

This dissertation focuses on the gender variable, investigating if, where and how to include it in the CAWST ToC. To do so, a literature review is first undertaken to investigate why, where and how the gender variable features in WASH projects. The literature findings are then translated into a modification of the CAWST ToC. Finally, interviews with organizations implementing WASH projects are carried out to understand how gender features in WASH projects in practice, so that the reviewed ToC can be tailored.

The literature review provides evidence of the importance of including gender aspects in a WASH project. An inclusive service is first shown to be necessary to ensure equitable management of the service and access to it by both genders. Gender-inclusive WASH projects are then shown to be sustainable and to have the power to tackle disparities and empower the most vulnerable people. Gender can be included by adopting a gender-sensitive project cycle, by producing more accessible documentation about gender in WASH, and by including gender equality as a goal beyond the project’s scope.

The literature review findings are translated into a modification of the CAWST ToC. The gender-sensitive project cycle and the production of documentation are included in the ToC by adding new steps in the flow chart. The power of WASH to be gender transformative cannot be included in the ToC since it does not have an advocacy role.

The data collected from the semi-structured interviews confirm the literature findings and provide evidence that gender should be included in a phase of the project cycle not mentioned so far: the application and allocation of funding.

A final version of CAWST ToC inclusive of gender is recommended. However, the CAWST ToC now contains many factors and is more complex to read so a recommendation would be to produce a more accessible ToC.

Having a gender-inclusive ToC could help CAWST and its clients to be aware of the importance of assessing gender implications at a community level to deliver sustainable WASH services. This research can be seen as a starting point for a broader intention of building gender awareness within WASH-implementing organizations.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.