International Development Planning Review

‘People don’t like the ultra-poor like me’: an intersectional approach to gender and participation in urban water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects in Dhaka’s bostis

International Development Planning Review (2022), 44, (2), 147–168.


In this paper we use an anti, intra and inter-categorical intersectional approach, and ethnographic enquiry in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to nuance debate over gender and participation in urban water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects in low-income settlements. We make three claims. First, that a mismatch exists between how ‘women’ are framed and targeted in WASH projects and everyday experience characterised by the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens. Second, the likelihood of participation and leadership in WASH projects differs between women according, especially, to age, income, marital and occupancy status, social and political relationships. Third, the same interconnected leaders - including married ‘power couples’ - are involved in all development projects, with implications for the consolidation of power and authority. We call for urban development research, policy and practice to better engage with difference and the conflicting roles certain women and men play in NGO management, local politics and broader claim-making.

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Author details

Cawood, Sally

Rabby, Md. Fazle