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Empowering women to improve sanitation and hygiene in rural Cambodia

Public sanitation exists in only 23% of communities in rural Cambodia, while only around 50% have access to clean drinking water. These rates persist despite decades of NGO and government schemes to give away toilets, hand-pumps, chlorine tablets, and water filters.

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To address this challenge, the public enterprise Watershed has sought to change community attitudes toward sanitation. Using a 'hands-off' marketing model, it aims to develop local social entrepreneurs and community networks to act as sales agents and local retailers, creating new channels to distribute sanitation products.

Diageo invested £50,000 in the Watershed programme in Cambodia's Kampong Cham province between December 2011 and January 2013, in a partnership with USAID. As a result of the project, more than 10,000 rural Cambodian households chose to purchase their own toilet or water filter device, investing more than £282,000 of their own money. Consequently, local businesses prospered and suppliers employed more people from the community to work as agents, labourers, and installers.

These are achievements to be proud of; however we believe more can be done. With a further investment of £50,000 from the Diageo Foundation through Plan W, our global programme to empower women, Watershed will build directly on the work in Kampong Cham province. It will investigate how access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene can be improved, focusing specifically on increasing opportunities for women in business and on women as consumers of safe and affordable products that improve their families' health and comfort.