The impact of COVID-19 on women’s access to water, sanitation and hygiene in an Indonesian fishing village

Practicing good hygiene is important in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but this can be very challenging when access to water and sanitation is poor. The traditional caregiving and cleaning roles, which usually fall to women and girls, leave them particularly vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.


A new Australia-Indonesia Centre (AIC) Rapid Research project seeks to understand how COVID-19 impacts women’s access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Focusing onTambak Lorok, a village in Central Java. The project will assist stakeholders to promote better health, social and political equity among residents.

This study highlights the importance of engaging directly with villagers to understand what can be done to better support women, girls and their communities’ access to clean water and sanitation, during the pandemic.

Issues including coastal flooding, unreliable water supply and open defecation limit Tambak Lorok’s access to WASH.  While COVID-19 case numbers in Tambak Lorok are unknown, the research team have learned through their village contacts that the health and hygiene instructions provided to villagers have been difficult for people to follow.

This research project aims to examine what measures have been taken by local authorities and health services to respond to the pandemic, and how they have been received by those in the village.

“Local governments, utilities and health services are critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of communities,” said project Co-lead Dr Naomi Francis.

“They need to know the impact of COVID-19 on their constituents, particularly women’s and girls’, access to WASH; and how limited access to WASH has impacted their ability to keep themselves safe during the pandemic.”

The research will also seek to understand whether there has been any change in women’s access to WASH since the pandemic began.

“It is likely that women have been impacted in unique ways because they are the main carers of household members who become unwell and they are primarily responsible for ensuring the household has access to WASH,” said Co-lead Wigke Capri.

The research will also identify any changes in gender roles in the village since the pandemic began. Previously, there were specific roles, such as men fishing at sea and women cleaning up around the town after coastal flooding. This may have changed since COVID-19.

The findings from this research will support local institutions to best meet the WASH and health needs of residents during events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


The research team

Co-leads: Dr Naomi Francis (Monash), Wigke Capri (UGM)

Participants: Diaz Prasongko (UGM), Krisanti Arni Dinda (UGM), Rina Ariyani (UGM)


Australian Media enquiries

Marlene Millott
PAIR Program Officer
+61 427 516 851

Indonesian Media enquiries

Fadhilah Trya Wulandari
PAIR Program Officer
+62 8124 3637 755


About the Australia-Indonesia Centre

The AIC was established by the Australian and Indonesian Governments in 2013. It brings together 11 universities – seven Indonesian and four Australian – to advance people-to-people links in science, technology, education, innovation and culture. The AIC designs and facilitates bilateral research programs, taking research outcomes to policy and practice. It forms interdisciplinary teams that work collaboratively with stakeholders – policy, business and community – to find solutions to regional, national and global challenges.

Beyond research, the AIC’s outreach activities contribute to broader people-to-people links. It runs digital dialogues that seek to shed new insights. It supports the deepening of cultural exchange through a binational short film festival, explores respective national attitudes and perceptions towards each other, and brings together future leaders of both nations workshops, dialogues and other programs.

The Rapid Research program is part of the AIC’s Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research, funded by the Australian Government.  It is AIC’s front-foot response to a better understanding of COVID-19’s impact on Indonesia’s economy and society.  It brings together Sixty Australian and Indonesian researchers from the AIC’s consortium of 11 universities to explore three areas: COVID-19 People and Health; COVID-19, People and Connectivity, and COVID-19, People and Economic Recovery.


Photo by/Foto oleh Tyler Morgan on Unsplash