Gender and Water Alliance

GWA Regional Workshop: Strategic Planning for Mainstreaming Gender in IWRM in South Asia

The first Gender and Water Alliance South Asia Regional Workshop, which was held from 23 to 25 January 2007 in Kathmandu, Nepal, had about 50 participants. They were both women and men, from NGOs, water networks, donor organizations and academia in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka as well as representatives from Water Aid, U.K. and the GWA Secretariat, the Netherlands. The Workshop was co-hosted by the Nepal Water for Health Foundation (NEWAH), one of the largest NGOs in Nepal working on water, health and sanitation from a gender and poverty perspective.

The main objective of the two day meeting was to build a collective vision and Action Plan for strategizing gender mainstreaming in integrated water resource management (IWRM) in the region. It was hoped that we could achieve this by bringing together participants who would be willing to plan, lead and facilitate:

  • Capacity building on gender and IWRM at all levels of water governance
  • Knowledge development and management through a variety of media
  • Networking and policy advocacy on gender equity priorities for water policy

Ajaya Dixit (Nepal Water Conservation Foundation and Chair of the NEWAH Board) in his keynote address on IWRM set the tone by arguing that though IWRM is a positive way forward in thinking holistically about water resource management, it remains a sanitized and apolitical concept. Instead, we should think of constructive engagement with integrated water resource allocation and management (CE-IWRAM) by participating in consultative dialogues on water management with different ‘solidarities’.[1] However, building the capacity of the powerless to engage in a political space which is contested is critical, particularly in social contexts where dialogues are often suppressed.

Ms Joke Muylwijk, Executive Director of the GWA, outlined the vision, mission and organizational principles and values of the GWA as a global network with more than 650 members, individuals and organizations, in 90 countries around the world. The GWA is coordinated by a small secretariat based in the Netherlands and governed by a Steering Committee with elected representatives from different regions as well as appointed representatives from some of GWA’s partners (GWP, Cap-Net, IRC). The GWA recognizes that access to water for both domestic and livelihood purposes is a basic human right and that we need to build the capacities of women and men, particularly the marginalized, to effectively participate in decision-making on equitable and sustainable water use and management. Through strategic partnerships with members and partners, the GWA advocates gender mainstreaming in IWRM, shares knowledge and resources on best practices and strengthens advocacy platforms linking micro-practice and national / global policy discourse. For more on the GWA and to join please see this web-site. In addition to the web-site there is a list-serve, planned e-conferences and a number of key gender and water resources available in different languages.

Presentations on other regional water networks followed including Cap-Net (South Asia and India) the Women and Water Network (India) and the Gender, Energy and Water Network, Nepal. A common theme that emerged from all these presentations was the need to build regional coordination platforms or small task forces for overlapping objectives whether on capacity building, knowledge management or policy advocacy.

After the network presentations, there were presentations of the different contexts in each country (India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) and the key concerns for mainstreaming gender and equity in water policy and practice. Essentially, despite the rhetoric of community participation and institutional restructuring in the name of decentralized water management, the large majority of grassroots women and to some extent marginalized men, find it difficult to articulate ‘voice’ or to actively participate as empowered citizens. Gender stratification intersects with caste, class, faith, age, poverty and organizational cultures to exclude many women and men, despite the best intentions of various facilitators, community leaders, NGOs, etc.

On the second day of the workshop, participants were divided into three groups to share their proposals on capacity building, knowledge management and policy advocacy and develop a set of regional activities which they felt could contribute to change. Each group was steered by two facilitators, m/f, who asked the questions: “What is the change that you would like to see in terms of facilitating more gender just and equitable water allocation and management? How would you like to see this change occur? And what do you see as the main facilitating or constraining factors and risks?” Each group then presented a short summary of their discussions and the proposed activity proposal, outlining key indicators, possible sources of co-financing, roles and responsibilities.

Workshop Outputs

The problem with workshops is that though we all come with good intentions, contribute enthusiastically to discussions and make keen promises, the responsibility of turning intent into responsibility is shouldered by a few, already over-stressed individuals. While we are still in the process of developing a joint Action Plan for the South Asia region, the following activities have been jointly agreed upon:

  1. A Gender Equity Gauge for monitoring water policies, sector reforms and the process of decentralization
  2. Knowledge Management on gender and IWRM issues
  3. Capacity Building on gender and IWRM, evolving a strategy and indicators
  4. Urban Water and Sanitation Governance – with Cap-Net, 

[1] Solidarities include the hierarchical bureaucracy (the state), the individualist corporate (the market) and the egalitarian social auditors (civil society).

Training of trainers

Realisatie door Four Digits op basis van Plone.