Return to the UEM Homepage
Integrating Gender Perspectives Ebr> Realising new Options for Improved Water Management


REPORT on Gender Plenary Session:

Gender Plenary Session V:
Integrating Gender Perspectives ERealising new Options for Improved Water Management

International Conference on Freshwater, 3-7 December 2001, Bonn, Germany
International Congress Centre EBundeshaus Bonn: PLENARY HALL BUNDESHAUS

  • Bärbel Dieckmann, Major of Bonn, Germany Chair
  • Diane M. Quarless, Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the UN, Jamaica Co-Chair
  • Jon Lane, United Kingdom Co-Chair
  • Jennifer Francis, Gender and Water Alliance Facilitator

I Presentation: “Water, Gender and PovertyE/font>

Ms Barbara Schreiner, senior water resource manager in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in South Africa.

There are several key points that have been raised. Particularly important are:

The recognition of the importance of water in today’s world. The way water is managed needs to be changed if we are to achieve sustainable development.

A gender-sensitive approach is one crucial part of that change. Poverty eradication is crucial to the future of the world, and a key element of sustainable development.

By understanding the different roles of women and men in water management, recognition is given to the roles of especially of poor women and men. On this basis it is necessary to change the power balance so that women and men, at all levels of society can participate equally in the management of water.

A gender-sensitive approach is not limited to the development of an appropriate policy, but to its implementation through a concrete strategy. Such a strategy has a number of facets, a key one of which is training and capacity building. Other elements include facilitating the equal participation of women and men; setting clear targets and indicators of success; and setting up conflict resolution mechanisms. Above all, such a strategy requires those with technical expertise to learn to listen, to especially poor men and to poor women who have important expertise and understanding of their own experience to bring to the table.

II Major points of discussion

The discussion was focused on three main issues:

  • Integration of gender perspectives at the policy level
  • Implementation of gender perspectives at the institutional level
  • Implementation of gender perspectives at the project level
The discussion looked at good examples as well as obstacles and derived at the following:
  • Poverty alleviation goes hand in hand with gender integration as it takes into account the different needs of women and men and balances the scale through equitable distribution.
  • Gender is a crosscutting issue and should be mainstreamed within the integrated sectoral approach. It is no longer a stand alone issue.
  • Change in legislation is still required to ensure the equal rights of women and men to water.
  • Implementation of gender policies should be developed at all levels from international and national levels.
  • There is a need to collect gender disaggregated data to reflect existing inequities. With this monitoring of progress is possible and where necessary affirmative action can be taken to improve the situation.
  • Traditional roles of women have to be recognised. However, it is crucial to look into the distribution of work, decision making and benefits of development.
  • Water is vital to improving the lives of women, however education and training for women and girls are just as important for water security.
  • Technology should be checked for its appropriateness before it is transferred to developing countries.
  • Implementation of gender perspectives has proven to be very successful at the community level but is still difficult at large scales. To improve large scale implementation decentralised decision making is required to promote participatory and innovative approaches as well as commitment.
  • The Bonn Recommendations on gender should be followed up during the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development.
Remark: It was recognised, that sanitation failed to be mentioned in the discussion although it is crucial in addressing gender issues.

III Policy Implication and Recommended Actions

(Prepared and delivered by the Gender and Water Alliance, of which broad consensus was reached in the plenary.)

  • Planners must include a gender perspective systematically in the development of all national and regional water resources policies and programmes.
  • The collection of gender disaggregated data by governments and all water management organisations is essential to distinguish differences in needs, interests, and priorities in water resources management.
  • Donors and governments are requested to include gender impact assessments for all water projects, in order to ensure equal responsibilities and benefits among women and men, including distribution of work, paid opportunities and capacity building.
  • Water management is closely tied to land tenure arrangements. Governments should revise laws and policies to ensure women equal rights to both water and land.
  • All water management organisations from the community to the basin level and higher should include effective representation of women and men of all socia l strata. Where representation is unbalanced, affirmative action is required based on clear criteria.
  • Technology choices, management regimes and regulatory frameworks have different impacts on women and men. Governments and all water management organisations must analyse and monitor these impacts with feedback at all levels.
  • Governments, donors and all water management organisations should target capacity building and training to:
    • Build capacity of women to manage water and related financial resources to improve efficient water use;
    • Increase scientific and technical education of women; and
    • Support water professionals in integrating gender perspectives in their programmes and projects.
  • 98% of rural women classified as economically active are involved in agriculture. Governments and water management organisations must provide training and credit for women to improve efficiency of land and water use for food production.
  • The United Nations, reporting under the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) should include indicators relating to gender and water.
  • All the above recommendations should be monitored and progress reported back to the Johannesburg Earth Summit 2002 and the Third World Water Forum.

Return to Water Resources
Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org