Can we become more gender equal and inclusive? Water perspectives

Have you ever thought about how good water management can build more equal societies? GWP Programme Assistant Ankur Gupta writes about key areas to work on in order to increase gender equality and inclusion within water governance and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policies, strategies, and access to services throughout the world. This is part of an on-going conversation that will continue over social media, and followed up during a one-day seminar, “Understanding the Gender Dimension of Water and Waste” on Aug 27 at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The seminar is co-convened by UNEP, GWP, World Bank, WaterAid, WfWP, and SaciWATERS. 


Photo: Cleaning Thimphu River on World Water Day 2017, GWP Bhutan

In September 2015, with the landmark adoption of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global leaders placed inclusiveness at the heart of the agenda. We focus here particularly on the interlinkages between SDG 5, which is on gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and SDG 6, on water and sanitation. Gender includes the full spectrum of identities including women and girls, men and boys, transgender, intersex, and non-binary genders. This blog focuses on women as a key group that are gender discriminated but also a source of powerful action. The SDGs provide a global framework and principles that are required to achieve more equality and it is imperative that all actions follow the SDGs.

From Rio and Dublin principles in 1992 to the SDGs, there has been a lot of effort made at global, regional, and national levels. Today, more women are involved in water management and governance than before (Between 1995 and 2015, the gender gap in employment decreased only by 0.6%, Women at Work, ILO 2016) so there is still a lot that needs to be done.

One of the key words that is consistently used is “empowerment”, but what does it mean? Longwe in 1991 developed a ‘Women’s Empowerment Framework’. The framework argues that the progression from practical to strategic gender outcomes depends on the extent to which the intervention has potential to ’empower’. The framework includes five ‘levels of equality’ which are: 1) Welfare; 2) Access; 3) Conscientisation; 4) Participation; 5) Control. The interventions aimed at the welfare end of the spectrum will not fundamentally alter gender relations or increase gender equality, whereas actions focused at the participation and control end of the spectrum can lead to improved gender equality (known as transformative change).

It is therefore necessary that our primary focus is on inclusion, participation, and ownership. The efforts can be placed in two broad categories: Mainstreaming Efforts and Targeted Efforts. Gender mainstreaming is the process of assessing the implications for girls and boys/ men and women of any planned action, including legislation, policies, or programmes. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of all an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programmes so that girls and boys / women and men benefit from equality, and inequality is not perpetuated (Action Study, GWP; UTS, to be published soon).

Targeted approaches involve specific strategies to improve gender equality through targeting a particular group/set of individuals – such as women and girls. Examples include providing scholarships for women to study water related professions; quotas for women to take up roles on boards/committees/ministries, etc.; education and training courses provided to women only; and provision of menstrual hygiene management facilities (Action Study, GWP; UTS, to be published soon).

There are certain gaps and opportunities that we can immediately start addressing, such as supporting women leadership in water governance, making institutions accountable for upholding policies on gender equality, and inclusion in governance. If we truly want empowerment, we need to go beyond platitudes and work for real change. The time to act is now, “Yes we can!” If you have more ideas and comments, please engage through the comments section.

About globalwaterpartnership

The Global Water Partnership's vision is for a water secure world. Our mission is to advance governance and management of water resources for sustainable and equitable development.
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1 Response to Can we become more gender equal and inclusive? Water perspectives

  1. Kaggs says:

    As long as women remain silent on matters so important like water,society will continue folding it’s arms.Governments should put more efforts in making sure,water is available&accessible to all.

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