Water and Gender


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. Gender norms, customs and practices prevent women from participating in, contributing to and benefiting from water resources management. Engagement of men and boys is key to challenging gender-based discrimination in the water realm and that empowering women at the decision-making level is pivotal to water management.

The lack of sex-disaggregated data is a major obstacle to the production of scientific evidence on gender inequalities related to water and to the formulation of evidence-based policies.

Investing in engendering water contributes to strengthening social inclusion, eradicating poverty and advancing environmental sustainability.


In 2014, WWAP started a ground-breaking project on gender-sensitive water assessment, monitoring and reporting. During two workshops, over 100 indicators were identified by a group of thirty international experts (WWAP working group on sex-disaggregated data). Subsequently a list of 40 high-priority indicators was selected, according to correspondence to 5 pertinent priority topics: water governance; safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; decision-making and knowledge production; transboundary waters resources management; and water for income generation for industrial and agricultural uses.


The innovative Gender & Water Toolkit developed by WWAP provides a conceptual framework and sex-disaggregated indicators for the monitoring of the SDGs, with particular reference to SDGs 5 (gender) and 6 (water and sanitation), which are interlinked with all the other SDGs. It provides users with a pioneering methodological framework and with key-indicators to assess the current status of freshwater resources on national, regional and global scale. The toolkit includes:

  • list of high-priority gender–sensitive water indicators;
  • methodology for collecting sex-disaggregated data on water resources;
  • guidelines for data gathering;
  • questionnaires for field surveys.

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WWAP has developed an innovative training programme on the topic of sex-disaggregated water data collection and analysis. The training especially addresses programme officers or project managers and equips them with knowledge on issues related to gender and water. The aim is to integrate sex-disaggregated indicators into national strategies and policies. It is highly recommended that the training is given by experienced WWAP staff or certified trainers only.

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Webinar Series

The IW:LEARN Gender sub-component is executed by the United Nations World Water Assessment Programme of UNESCO (WWAP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

A relevant part of the Gender sub-component is the Webinar series ‘IW:LEARN Webinar Series – ‘Engendering International Waters’ which is a set of six webinars that aims to provide GEF IW projects with the elements and tools for training project staff and client country experts on water and gender issues and how to incorporate gender considerations into water policies, in different project contexts. The webinars will be complemented by face-to-face international and regional workshops.  

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Gender Mainstreaming

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

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