Water and Gender - Towards gender equality in the water realm!


How water is distributed, who has access and can make decisions on its use, depends on various social factors, including gender norms.

While in the majority of societies women and girls are responsible for fetching and carrying water, and for using it for the health and wellbeing of their families, these women and girls rarely have the decision-making power it takes to control and preserve water resources. This is true at the community, national, transboundary and international level.

In addition, women are rarely represented in ministries responsible for decision making about water resources, and are generally not found in technical water management roles.

It is paramount to understand the root causes for these inequalities, and to quantify them so that appropriate actions can be implemented to address them. One of the most important factors and tools to bring to light existing gender inequality is sex-disaggregated data collection and analysis. 

Despite this need, only around a third of the countries in the world currently collect sex-disaggregated data for water management. Bridging the data gap would allow to shed light on the power relations – often unequal - between men and women in the water sector and to produce scientific evidence to inform policy making.

In line with UNESCO's global priority on Gender Equality, WWAP has worked since 2014 to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the water sector, mainly through:

Methodology, Indicators and Tools

UNESCO WWAP has been working since 2014 to help fill the gender data gap, through the creation of an innovative methodology, indicators, and tools for the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data.

The UNESCO WWAP Toolkit on Sex-disaggregated Water Data (first edition released in 2015, second edition released in May 2019) represents the first ever initiative aiming to achieve a global standard for gender-responsive water assessment, monitoring and reporting.

The 2019 Toolkit on Sex-disaggregated Water Data consists of 4 Tools:

  1. Tool 1 - ‘Gender-responsive indicators for water assessment, monitoring and reporting’ features 105 gender-responsive indicators in 10 priority topics aligned with the 2030 Agenda (notably in the categories of human rights-based water resources management, water and education, indigenous knowledge and community water rights, migration, displacement, and climate change);
  2. Tool 2 - ‘Methodology for the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’ describes the methodology for data collection;
  3. Tool 3 - ‘Guidelines on the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’ gives an overview of common data collection methods for different users and regions, whereas;
  4. Tool 4 - ‘Questionnaire for the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’, lists 364 questions with suggested methodologies for data collection.

Capacity Development Training

WWAP has developed an innovative capacity development programme on the topic of gender mainstreaming and sex-disaggregated water data collection: from data to policy. The training consists of 7 interactive macro-modules and equips professionals with knowledge on issues related to gender and water. The final aim is to integrate sex-disaggregated indicators into national strategies and policies and strengthen national capacity, as well as promote the achievement of SDG6.

More on the WWAP Capacity Development on Gender


Also on project-level, WWAP is active, mainly through its contribution in:

  1. The “Governance of Groundwater Resources in Transboundary Aquifers” (GGRETA Project), implemented by UNESCO IHP, in which WWAP is responsible for mainstreaming gender-sensitive water monitoring, assessment and reporting as well as providing capacity development support at the national and regional level, e.g. through workshops.
  2. The International Waters Learning Exchange and Resources Network (IW:LEARN) Project, from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), in which WWAP teamed up with WWFUS to disseminate its experience with regards to sex-disaggregated indicators and data in water resources management, e.g. through workshops and a webinar series.

More on WWAP's contribution to the GGRETA and IWLEARN projects

Advocating for Gender Equality in the Water Sector

WWAP has been active in the (co)organization of workshops at several international events such as the World Water Week (WWW), International Water Council (IWC), Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and a multitude of other conferences and meetings. Aside of raising awareness on the need for collecting sex-disaggregated water data (and for enhanced knowledge of project managers and partners on the topic) and providing guidance on gender mainstreaming in practice, WWAP also proposed the development of a gender guideline for IW projects.

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