Dr. Liza Debevec
Senior Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist, Global Water Partnership
If women are not at the table when water decisions are made, whole communities suffer.
Women are of fundamental importance to water management. Even though the role of women as managers of domestic water has been acknowledged in water policies since the late 1970s, we have got a long way to go.
Today, water is the focus of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 and gender is the focus of SDG 5, with the vision that the world will address both water security and gender equality by 2030 – in barely eight years.
While some countries and international organisations are working towards achieving those goals, and gender equality is often cited as being key to water management, reaching those two goals by 2030 will be a close race.
Recent statistics from water.org show that globally, women and girls collectively spend 200 million hours every day collecting water.
We’re not moving fast enough
Recent statistics from water.org show that globally, women and girls collectively spend 200 million hours every day collecting water. In Asia and Africa, women and girls walk an average of six kilometres (nearly four miles) every day gathering water.
Women remain conspicuously absent from leadership in the water sector. When women are involved in decision-making, the outcomes are better for everyone. Why? Because women use and manage water the most at household and community levels.
Nevertheless, in 2014, women made up just 17% of the water and sanitation work force and an even smaller proportion of managers, regulators, policymakers and technical experts.
Last year, GWP was involved in collecting data to measure progress on SDG 6. The survey, conducted in 186 countries, included questions about gender. GWP did further analysis by carrying out in-depth interviews in 23 countries. The findings, published in “Advancing towards gender mainstreaming in water resources management” show that in half of the countries there has been limited or no achievement of gender objectives in water management policies and plans.
Four action areas
There is still a gap between policy and practice: policies are not always accompanied by concrete action plans, nor adequately funded. The GWP study identified seven factors that can help governments advance towards gender equality. These can be grouped into four action areas:
- Institutional leadership and commitment
- Gender and inclusion analysis
- Meaningful and inclusive participation in decision-making
- Equal access to and control of resources.
As countries, donors and international organisations invest time and money into these areas, they will take tangible steps toward achieving the goals set in SDG 5 and SDG 6. This is urgent: 2030 is just around the corner.