High-level International Conference on Water Cooperation, Dushanbe, Tajikistan

The International decade for action- water for life 2005-2015 recognizes the importance of women as actors in water management. The United Nations Resolution A/RES/58/217, 2003, par.2 establishes that the goals of the decade are to ensure a greater focus on water-related issues at all levels

and on the implementation of water-related programmes and projects, while striving to ensure the participation and involvement of women in water-related development efforts, and the furtherance of cooperation at all levels, to help in  achieving the  internationally agreed water-related goals.

WOFAN, represented by the Executive Director- Hajia Salamatu Garba, was at the Gender Forum captioned “Empowerment of Women a  Foundation for Successful Transnational Water Cooperation” which  took place on the 19th August 2013 a day before the  conference.

More than one hundred fifty participants including more than one hundred women from around the world participated in this event. Its outcomes fed in the High Level Panel and are reflected in the conclusions below.

The fundamental role of women in water management was considered, given their role in their families and communities and the importance of strengthening women’s leadership in water policy and decision- making to achieve more effective implementation of water cooperation. 

 

 

 

Case studies at the world water forum:  Women and Water Cooperation in Northern Nigeria: WOFAN

 

Women Farmers Advancement Network- WOFAN has undertaken projects in Northern Nigeria targeting

·         access to safe drinking water and sanitation for improved livelihood,

·          rain harvesting and waste water management for  irrigation purposes that led to production of economic crops by women,

·         capacity building of women and youths in handpump repairs and maintenance thereby giving women skills and opportunity and making them drivers of the solution to their problems

·          Promotion of sanitation option and a tool to preventing open defecation,

·         Institution capacity building and strengthening networks of rural groups to address and take ownership of WASH issues. Great examples of this opportunity is the popular radio programme that enables women groups and networks to speak out of issues that affect and demand solutions for such needs

·         WOFAN in partnership with USAID-Nigeria has advocated at top level for water policy issues including the transformation of WATSAN to independent water agencies in some Northern states and also built the capacity of 9 wives of Governors in Nigeria as WASH Ambassadors and supporting them to a one week study tour to the Netherlands to enhance their involvement in gender mainstreaming, water maintenance and possible investment in the water sector in their various states. One important achievement of this initiative is that the   first lady of Katsina state – Hajia Fatima Shema has advocated and achieved the inclusion of 34 women as supervisory councilors in this administration, representing every local Government in her state, to address WASH issues and participation of women in decision making at the grassroots level 

LESSONS LEARNT 

 

Ø  Water is a key foundation, whose importance can hardly be overestimated. It is a common denominator of the leading global challenges of our time – climate change, energy, food, health, peace and security.

Ø  Water management can reduce the risk of disasters, such as droughts and floods.

Ø  Nurturing the opportunities for cooperation in water management among all stakeholders and improving the comprehension of the challenges and benefits of water cooperation can help build mutual respect; understanding and trust among countries promote peace, security and sustainable economic growth.

Ø  An inclusive, participatory and gender sensitive governance of water and cooperation between different stakeholders can help to overcome inequity and prevent conflicts in access to water and contribute to poverty eradication, socio-economic development, gender equality and social equity.

Ø  Mobilizing political will and commitment to address water issues worldwide is vital. Equally important are forward thinking and a willingness to consider innovative ways to approach local, regional and international cooperation. Open discussion of the issues shaping our water resources today and strong citizen participation in decision-making (is key to fostering good governance and a climate of accountability and transparency) can stimulate cooperative action and political commitment.

Ø  Promoting a culture of consultation and increasing participative capacities will help to deliver benefits in all areas, including collaborative water management.  

 

Summary from cases:

 What have women contributed:

·         Women with a high profile have contributed immensely to raising the profile of women’s role and involvement in local water-issues, but also in getting more professional women in key positions in WASH and water management

·         Women in local communities started to act as water ambassadors and convened volunteer groups as Promoters in the improvement of water and sanitation services and in sustaining such facilities.

·         Women’s organizations, founded by grassroots women, took the lead in designing and implementing sanitation-related projects and capacity development activities 

Main Challenges:

1.    Investing in water and sanitation is not seen as bringing return on investment economically speaking (the actual reality is very different)

2.    Lack of investments by Government and private sector organizations in the water and sanitation sector and women’s involvement in actions in the last ten years in Nigeria (especially) compared to other sectors such as oil and gas, energy, housing etc. also slows down economic development

3.    Funding in general is a constant restraint; innovative financing schemes, e.g. regional revolving funds, payment for ecosystem services, inter-riparian financing and cost recovery of water services, could be considered

4.    Gender-Based Violence/Insecurity is common (and could be better addressed e.g. through safe gender-sensitive sanitation provision)

5.    Adding to the already complex nature of water resource management are the uncertainty and compounding factors related to climate change. These will lead to an increased risk of inland flash floods and more frequent coastal flooding, droughts, etc. Relying on static models for forecasting water events is no longer feasible and this requires solutions and management plans to be adaptive and resilient by including provisions that account for climate change

6.    The AMCOW gender strategy is yet to be implemented and there is no / not yet a national network to set this agenda in water and sanitation in the country

Main Lessons Learned:

a)    There is the urgent need for the formation of a Network on Gender, water and sanitation in the country,  incorporation  and involvement of the trained Gender Ambassadors to advocate more on WASH in order to achieve the  MDG

b)    The need for involvement of different groups within the (beneficiary) communities right from the project design through implementation and evaluation cannot be over emphasized. This will ensure ownership as well as the sustenance of the project

c)    Radio broadcasting has shown to be a very effective and powerful communication tool

d)    Sanitation marketing is becoming more and more important in the country and this will serve as an avenue to encourage women and youths to become entrepreneurially developed, as it will create a livelihood for both women and youth

e)    the consideration and inclusion of gender issues in environmental management and poverty reduction activities is crucial if development programs are to be relevant and sustainable

f)     Nurturing the opportunities for cooperation in water management among all stakeholders and improving the comprehension of the challenges and benefits of water cooperation can help build mutual respect; understanding and trust among countries promote peace, security and sustainable economic growth.

g)    An inclusive, participatory and gender sensitive governance of water and cooperation between different stakeholders can help to overcome inequity and prevent conflicts in access to water and contribute to poverty eradication, socio-economic development, gender equality and social equity.

h)   Mobilizing political will and commitment to address water issues worldwide is vital. Equally important are forward thinking and a willingness to consider innovative ways to approach local, regional and international cooperation. Open discussion of the issues shaping our water resources today and strong citizen participation in decision-making (is key to fostering good governance and a climate of accountability and transparency) can stimulate cooperative action and political commitment.

i)     Promoting a culture of consultation and increasing participative capacities will help to deliver benefits in all areas, including collaborative water management.

 Social Capital

The professional and traditional roles of women represent a significant social capital that can and should be used for effecting change in water governance that is needed for social and economic development and environmental integrity, as well as for bridging between stakeholders and bringing about cross-sectoral and transboundary exchange and cooperation.

Achieving gender equity in Water Cooperation

In order to achieve gender equity, there has to be equitable allocation of costs and benefits on water cooperation, both social and economic. The greatestpositions of influence are at the grass roots: women in communities need to be empowered to articulate the most pressing local needs and to adequately inform decision-makers bottom-up. To achieve meaningful participatory approaches for better water cooperation requires investing in leveling the playing field for informed decision making. It requires a change in mind- set to view women as actors and agents of change rather than as victims and vulnerable groups.

Inclusiveness

Water co-operation should begin and end with women’s full inclusion at all levels. There needs to be a critical mass of women in positions of influence in water management at all levels, which requires targeted investments in women’s human capital.

Concrete actions

It is necessary to create a Women for Water Fund to support women projects and programs in water management, with a scholarship fund to support the training of women water professionals. Capacity development at all level is crucial for ensuring gender equity and mainstreaming gender. The success of the Gender Forum created expectations to build on this success with a follow-up national water conference in Tajikistan (Working Conference organized with the key- role of Women for Water Partnership).