Gender equality is key for sustainable, effective and inclusive water governance. Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of men and women, including equal access to, control over and use of services and resources. Inequality varies between societies and over time and gender inequalities often intersect with poverty, ethnicity, age, ability and sexuality generating complex and differentiated barriers to safe and dignified lives for all.
Our goal is that all our activities contribute to increased equality by applying both targeted and mainstreamed gender strategies. We strive to make both men and women part of the change process needed to overcome gendered stereotypes and structural discrimination. We believe that women and girls are key agents of change for inclusive and sustainable water governance.
Currently women and girls carry the main responsibility for domestic water management, but tend to be disadvantaged in decision making related to public water management – from the community level to the national and international level. Women and girls are also more affected by lack of access to safe water for consumption, resulting in lost time for productive or educational purposes due to the need to fetch water and to care for sick family members. In poor rural households in South Africa, women that fetch water and fuel wood spend 25 percent less time in paid employment and the likelihood of a woman being responsible for water fetching increases the more time is needed per trip. Water fetching also have direct detrimental effects on women and girls’ health by contributing to disabilities and increased risks of physical and sexual violence. Women’s lack of access to water for agriculture also result in lost food production.
Women are underrepresented as professionals in water management and governance, only seven percent of all ministers of water and natural resources are women and women are underrepresented at lower levels of decision making. In addition, lack of disaggregated national and global data limits the possibilities to develop policies and regulation that is sensitive to the differentiated needs of men and women in different social groups.
Worldwide women are moving their positions forward by organizing and demanding equal rights and opportunities, even if progress is uneven and sometimes slow. Increased equality benefits the stability and development of societies in general and water management in particular – in India women councillors prioritised water and sanitation investments 62% more than their male peers. Moreover, involving women in water projects have shown to make them more sustainable over time but also up to seven times more efficient.
Simulations from Tanzanian suggests that investing in water-related infrastructure could free up women’s time to the equivalent to a million new full-time jobs, if converted into paid employment, contributing substantially to reduce the gender gap in employment. By giving women the equal access to agricultural inputs, such as water, could increase their food production with up to 30 percent, providing food for 150 million people that currently go hungry. Finally, research shows that both national economies and private companies with gender balanced work force have more robust development and higher productivity gains
WGF works towards increased gender equality applying both targeted and mainstreamed strategies. As always, we aim to integrate applied research with our policy and technical support, thus research and knowledge management related to gender equality and mender mainstreaming is crucial. The research includes health and security risks related to water fetching, gender mainstreaming in water governance, women’s empowerment in local water management and gender and corruption in the water sector.
Principally the findings from the research feeds into the processes and programmes to which WGF is a partner – for example by developing a gender module for the MENA Water Integrity programme. WGF is also engaged in the development of the WWAP international Working Group gender sensitive water monitoring, assessment and reporting and supported the publication of the Gender, violence and WASH toolkit.
To raise awareness and share the knowledge lessons learned from adversities in gender mainstreaming were presented at the Gender, development and water conference in South Africa and WGF has co-convened several gender seminars at the Stockholm World Water Week.
Ms. Alice Nassar Jaraiseh
Phone: +46 8 121 360 42