Gimelli, Francesco Maria (2017). 'Fostering wellbeing through urban water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) initiatives in the Global South: a conceptual and practical approach rooted in the Capabilities Approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Marginalised individuals in the Global South such as residents of informal settlements face a deficit in water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) services. WaSH services are related to the wellbeing of individuals in a range of areas, including health, as well as the capabilities of political participation, economic security, social opportunities, and institutional transparency. However, many traditional approaches to WaSH development privilege initiatives that seek to ensure health, rather than wellbeing. This paper explores the WaSH development approaches of three initiatives in Faridabad, Delhi and Mumbai, India through case studies composed of forty-two in-depth, individual interviews with community members and water development professionals, field visits, and documentary analysis. This paper highlights that although these initiatives provide a range of benefits to the individuals that they target, they typically focus on ensuring health outcomes rather than the fostering of capabilities. The paper proceeds to articulate a conceptual and practical approach to urban WaSH development in cities in the Global South rooted in the Capabilities Approach, which seeks to not only ensure positive health outcomes for individuals, but addresses the interconnections between WaSH and the fostering of capabilities. This approach has the potential of guiding the planning and evaluation of WaSH initiatives that not only improve health, but also fosters capabilities such as political participation, economic security, social opportunities, and institutional transparency. The implication of this paper is that development initiatives can best provide transformative change to the individuals and communities that they target by acknowledging the complex interconnection between issues such as WaSH and the structural conditions required to foster wellbeing.

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