Responding to the global sanitation and hygiene challenge

SHE logo

Through the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community renewed its commitment to the provision of universal sanitation and hygiene to support human health, wellbeing and progress. Yet, with 2.4 billion people lacking improved sanitation and health-affirming hygiene behaviours not widely practised, the world remains far from achieving such ambitions. The Sanitation and Hygiene Equity (SHE) consortium is an international research-impactive initiative that works across multi-dimensional sector boundaries and scientific disciplines to generate novel insights to support a transformation in the extent and quality of sanitation and hygiene provision. 

The consortium aims to develop the underpinning science and technology needed to catalyse the delivery of sustainable and resilient sanitation and hygiene services for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. Where achieving impact for this ambition requires contributions to other areas of practice (e.g. drainage, water quality, energy supply) or consideration of wider pressures (e.g. climate change) we step across sector boundaries to pursue integrated solutions. Our research agenda is deliberately ambitious and broad, premised on the tenet that progress requires challenging goals and aspirational science. Using an array of funding mechanisms to both proactively shape interdisciplinary programs of work and respond to emerging ideas or challenges, we are broadening and deepening current initiatives in the sector.

Sanitation and Hygiene Equity Initiative partners and projects

The SHE community brings together a wide range of research and impact partners that are uniquely placed to respond to the challenge outlined above. Drawing on contributions from twenty academic centres of excellence from across the world, the consortium comprises over 50 bilateral or multi-lateral partnerships, each one focused on improving the accessibility of sanitation and hygiene services for the world’s poorest. 

SHE builds on a series of productive and lasting collaborations between the following globally-leading institutions:

Africa Asia UK/rest of the world
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Stellenbosch University
University of Cape Town
University of Malawi - The Polytechnic
University of Ghana
Botswana International University
of Science and Technology
Asian Institute of Technology
Royal University of Phnom Penh
IIT Bombay
Kebangsaan University Malaysia
Nepal Engineering College
Vietnam National University
Cranfield University
Imperial College London
Heriot-Watt University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Newcastle University
University of Colorado, Boulder
International Water Centre, Australia


This grouping of institutions provides a spectrum of disciplinary contributions (e.g. urban planning, chemical engineering, civil engineering, geography, management, political science, environmental sciences, psychology) and offers copious opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

On-going research initiatives between partners include:

  • Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) – Cranfield University, University of Colorado, Boulder, Asian Institute of Technology and University of KwaZulu Natal.
  • STREAM Doctoral Training Centre (funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) – Cranfield University, Imperial College London, University of Exeter, University of Sheffield and Newcastle University.
  • Low concentrations of biodegradable organic carbon in sewage flows (funded by the Newton Fund) – University of Sheffield and Kebangsaan University Malaysia.

Scaling up the Sanitation and Hygiene Equity Initiative

The SHE consortium is currently pursuing funding opportunities through the Global Challenge Research Fund's Interdisciplinary Research Hubs programme. In addition to a series of international bilateral meetings, an 'all hands' proposal writing workshop was hosted in Bangkok, Thailand by AIT on 19-22 April 2018.

We started the workshop with a poster session to share research findings. We worked together on research and capacity building activities we would like to undertake, and discussed our Theory of Change. We left feeling excited about this collaboration and with a much better understanding of how we can work together in the future.

Group photo from the proposal writing workshop