Barbara van Koppen of IWMI-Southern Africa discusses the AMCOW gender strategy at World Water Weekby Danielle Gambogi
The ‘Gender, water and development: The untapped connection” side event brought 16 professionals together during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. In her opening speech, Ms. Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, South Africa, spoke of the increasing need for open communication on water and sanitation issues.
Quantifying qualitative data
Gatherings such as the World Water Week and the upcoming Global Water and Gender Conference in February 2014, promote the continued need to enhance communication on an individual, local and international level. Inadequate communication pervades global gender and water issues. From a ground-level perspective, the lack of communication is visible in situational best practices and circumstantial success stories that often become lost opportunities for sharing because of language, cultural or historical barriers. Creating a space for water users to directly share stories, projects, indigenous knowledge and firsthand experiences could serve as a tool to quantify qualitative data.
Lesha Witmer of BPW International explained that often people don’t even realizethat they have the knowledge because it is engrained in their daily behavior.
This knowledge may also be useful when reviewing the outcomes of high-level meetings such as World Water Week, where attendees often get caught up in repeat presentations with no concrete takeaways coming from a meeting. Understandably, the engrained tradition of such events is to report on the same projects, strategies or upcoming proceedings year after year. Quantifying the qualitative information presented at such gatherings could assist stakeholders in truly calculating and improving the value and effectiveness of such interactions.
Cataloging success stories
Participants discussed the practice of cataloging what works and what doesn’t in academic research, and the need to complement that information by making unconscious knowledge or expertise – conscious. This practice could allow for the involvement of previously ‘hidden voices’ as primary sources on water-use practices.
Several case studies were presented during the session from experienced professionals in the water sector, including Barbara van Koppen, Rural Sociologist and Gender Expert, at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Van Koppen highlighted how gender equality in the human rights laws aligns with the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) strategy.
The AMCOW gender strategy sets a next step in operationalizing rights such as equal control over water resources and water technologies, and eventually equality among water users. Promoting equality, however, is not as simple as ensuring a fifty-fifty split. Gender equality surrounding water issues requires a balance of shared benefits; that under the assumption of equal footing, we have something to offer each other.
This progress in the operationalization of abstract policy intentions will also feed into the ongoing expansion from a narrow right to water for domestic uses and sanitation to a much more encompassing debate on ‘water and waste management from a human rights perspective’. With the AMCOW gender strategy and several women ministers of water, Africa can become a strong global leader.
As the Global Water and Gender Conference approaches, partnering organizations must communicate honestly and effectively to achieve the goals set forth by AMCOW’s gender and water strategy. The following seven strategy objectives aim to guide conversation and eventually action at the upcoming conference.
- Policy positions on gender in the water sector in Africa supported and strengthened through policy formulation and implementation.
- Adequate human and financial resources allocated to gender mainstreaming through strategic resource mobilization activities.
- Gender approach to implement project interventions at all levels within the water sector, including economic empowerment through equal access to water for productive purposes developed and adopted.
- Strategic research and collection of operational information on gender undertaken, produced, shared and used by stakeholders to inform evidence-based responses.
- Human and institutional capacity developed to support gender equality interventions at all levels.
- Mechanisms to promote cooperation and coordination to mainstream gender in the water sector strengthened.
- Monitoring and evaluation system and indicators to support gender equality interventions in the water sector developed and implemented.
The side session during World Water Week solidified the need for enhanced communication, ranging from the historical knowledge of water users to the research and experience of local, national and international professionals. Combating global gender and water issues challenges stakeholders to unite under a common goal and speak with one voice.
The Global Water and Gender Conference will take place in East London, South Africa, during the period February 19-21, 2014, and is hosted by the Water Research Commission (South Africa), in partnership with the Department of Water Affairs (South Africa), Southern African Development Community, African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) and the Women for Water Partnership. The AMCOW gender strategy will be showcased at the conference. More than 43 countries and over 100 organizations were involved in the development of this strategy, which aims to measure success in gender and water issues under a cohesive framework. The strategy would enable various organizations to undertake and monitor efforts to mainstream gender across diverse, and sometimes competing, users and sectors that share water as a critical input.