A new report published on Jan 6, 2022, by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and UNEP-DHI (United Nations Environment Programme Centre of Water and Environment), shows that there has been slow progress towards gender mainstreaming in water resources management.
The report findings, which were gained through structured interviews conducted in late 2020 with 23 nations and states around the world, reveal that water management across the world is still predominately male-dominated.
This report is a follow-up from the 2020 version, for which GWP were involved in collecting data to measure the progress on Sustainable Development Goal indicator 6.5.1 – the degree of implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) – across 186 countries.
“Access to water is relevant for women’s empowerment because it further affects women’s access to education and health (in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, and water-borne diseases), as well as their income and safety (gender-based violence)” the report highlights.
Although gender has been integrated into policymaking in several countries, the report found that there is still a wide gap between policy and practice, with many policies under-funded.
Research suggests that communities in which women are involved in water resources management can achieve better economic and environmental benefits, highlighting the crucial role women play in providing sustainable access to water resources.
In terms of achieving gender equality in water management, Dibya Kansakar, retired employee of the Department of Water Resources and Irrigation, Nepal, explains: “The number of women representatives in water projects and boards should not be the sole goal, neither the ultimate objective of gender mainstreaming”.
Kansakar goes on to describe gender mainstreaming as a much ‘wider process’, adding: “The presence of women in water projects won’t radically influence the impact of the project if the women have not been included in the design phase and if the projects have not integrated all gender needs and set objectives that are gender-sensitive and beneficial for all.”
Until gender mainstreaming in water resources management is achieved, images of women walking for miles with jugs of water on their heads will continue to prevail, perpetuating gender stereotypes and shaping global perceptions of women’s role as water carriers as opposed to managers.