Water, if not engendered, is endangered!

© Marco Tonsini

Water is a gendered issue. Although women play a key role in the provision, management and safeguarding of water, gender inequality persists around the globe. In line with UNESCO global priority, WWAP is committed to advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality in the water realm. 

The second edition of the capacity development programme on “Water and Sustainable Development”, funded by AGFUND and organized by WWAP from 11 to 15 July 2016, offered an opportunity to 20 policy makers from the African region (10 male and 10 female) to think through gender-sensitive water monitoring, assessment and reporting.

A session of the workshop was indeed dedicated to the theme “Engendering Water: WWAP Gender & Water Toolkit in View of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  In particular, the synergies between the Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality and women’s empowerment) and 6 (water and sanitation) were highlighted drawing on concrete case studies in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

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UN WWAP UNESCO Project on Gender Sensitive Water Monitoring Assessment and Reporting

© C. Schubert (CCAFS)

To address the considerable data gap on gender and water issues at the global level, in 2014 WWAP launched a groundbreaking project to develop and test sex-disaggregated indicators for the collection of global water data.

The project  has developed a methodology for sex-disaggregated data collection using multi-sectoral gender-sensitive water indicators, with the aim of advocating for the implementation of gender-sensitive water monitoring in the post-2015 agenda and, in particular, in the monitoring framework of the SDGs.

In this challenging task, WWAP is getting expert advice from its Working Group on Gender-Sensitive Water Indicators, composed of more than 40 experts from different regions of the world.

PHASE I of the project has been recently completed with the concrete output of a toolkit for gender-sensitive water monitoring. The toolkit includes a short list of high-priority gender–sensitive water indicators, a proposed methodology for collecting sex-disaggregated data, a compilation of guidelines for data gathering in the field, and a questionnaire for practitioners to collect sex-disaggregated data.

The second edition of the Workshop on Water and Sustainable Development also incorporated a session on gender issues named “Engendering Water: WWAP Gender & Water Toolkit in View of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

In November 2014, the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) recognized the indicators proposed by WWAP and formally committed itself to utilize those indicators for the water assessment in the Africa Region through country-based surveys. To share the results of its groundbreaking work, WWAP produced a publication on WWAP sex-disaggregated indicators for water assessment monitoring and reporting. This publication received high recognition from UNESCO’s Publications Committee. The publication and the entire toolkit is planned to be available online as of the 24th of August 2015.       

WWAP Advisory Group on Gender

The Advisory Group on Gender Equality was created in 2010, with the aim of assisting WWAP in mainstreaming gender equality considerations in its activities and products, in particular in the World Water Development Reports (WWDR). The group provides guidance and feedback on the design and implementation of the gender mainstreaming in WWAP activities and publications and is comprised of experts from all over the world.

WWAP gender mainstreaming in IHP/ GGRETA Project

In cooperation with GEF, UNEP, IGRAC, the UNESCO IHP has developed a methodology to assess 166 transboundary aquifers in three different world regions. This project, the Groundwater Governance in Transboundary Aquifers (GGRETA) is currently assessing the hydro-geology, legal and socio-economic aspects of 3 different aquifers, shared by 12 countries. GGRETA will develop and test an improved methodology and information management system for joint assessment of transboundary aquifers. The project is mainstreaming gender sensitive water monitoring, assessment and reporting under the scientific supervision of WWAP. WWAP is in charge of including gender-sensitive water monitoring techniques and providing scientific supervision to regional expert groups. As of today, WWAP provides sex-disaggregated indicators, guidelines and questionnaires to three groups of national experts who are  testing indicators and collecting data on a number of innovative topics, such as women and men's roles in water decision-making, water use, irrigation techniques, unaccounted water-related labor force and many other.

There is universal agreement in international and national policy circles that the collection of gender-disaggregated water indicators is of the utmost importance and priority.  

For years, UN agencies, NGOs, governments, activists, and water experts have been calling for a systematic approach to collecting gender-disaggregated water indicators. This project answers those calls. This ambitious project to disaggregate water data by gender is needed now more than ever: given global commitments to gender equality, and in light of the importance of water as a resource, given the many different  threats to water resources  the world’s policymakers and decision-makers need baseline gender-disaggregated data. 

This project will prove the value of gender-disaggregated data and will provide strong support for the monitoring of current MDGs and post-2015 development goals.  It will:

  • support the SDGs;
  • build capacity for national gender-disaggregation data-gathering projects;
  • demonstrate the value of gender-disaggregated data and make the case (to national leaders and policy-makers) for gender mainstreaming;
  • create baseline knowledge related to water, from which gender progress can later be evaluated;
  • serve as a basis for advocating change towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The need is great. A 2013 survey by the UN Statistical Commission reveals that gendered water data is among the least available of national-level indicators:

Percentage of countries “regularly” producing gender-disaggregated statistics on:

  • Mortality         85% (highest)
  • Labour force 83%
  • Education & training 81%
  • Poverty         71%
  • Agriculture 44%
  • Access to sanitation         39%
  • Access to clean water 37% (4th lowest % of 22 indicators)
  • Informal employment 37%
  • Media 15%

45.2% of countries do not produce any gender statistics related to water. 

WWAP’s project will help countries to change these statistics. 

Project Overview and Phases

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