Isha Ray’s contribution, the first of several essays in our “Just Environments” series, examines gender equality through the lens of access to basic sanitation. Moving beyond what the United Nations and others have proposed, Ray argues that in-home toilets are inadequate because they fail to account for those without homes, or those who are not home all day. Rather, if we are to make sanitation truly accessible, we must explicitly design and construct infrastructure that meets the needs of the most marginalized—including the low-income woman whose dignity and mobility rests on the presence of clean, safe facilities outside of the home.
Isha Ray is associate professor at the Energy and Resources Group (University of California, Berkeley) and codirector of the Berkeley Water Center. She has a BA in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University, and a PhD in applied economics from the Food Research Institute at Stanford University.
Dr. Ray’s research interests are water and development; water, sanitation and gender; and technology and development. Her research projects focus on access to water and sanitation for the rural and urban poor, and on the role of technology in advancing sustainable development goals and improving livelihoods. She and her students have worked on access to, and affordability of, water in India, China, Turkey, Mexico, Tanzania, and California’s Central Valley. She teaches courses on research methods in the social sciences, community-driven development, and water and development. Dr. Ray served on the editorial committee of the Annual Review of Environment and Resources from 2003 to 2013, serves as a reviewer for 14 peer-reviewed journals, has extensive experience in the international nonprofit sector on development and freshwater issues, and is a regular adviser to United Nations Women.