Agenda 2030 and the SDGs give unique guidance both on women’s empowerment (SDG5) and the importance of “water and sanitation” (SDG 6) and the connection between the two. Implementation however is lagging behind: in many countries, essential services on which millions of women and girls depend such as access to water and sanitation, are chronically underfunded, of poor quality or simply unavailable. The theme of the 2018 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development (9 - 18 July) reviewing progress is: "Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies". Women for Water Partnership co-convened on July 12th an HLPF side event assessing whether women are meaningfully involved in implementing SDG 6+ in the national plans of countries. "The United Nations should decide on an International Year on Water and Women."
As far back as 1992, the third Dublin principle[i] has been confirmed in multiple declarations and policies, starting with the Johannesburg Action Agenda all the way to the latest development at global level - a dedicated SDG5 with its targets on women’s empowerment. Implementation however is lagging behind: in many countries, essential services on which millions of women and girls depend such as access to water and sanitation, are chronically underfunded, of poor quality or simply unavailable.
Agenda 2030 and the SDGs give unique guidance both on women’s empowerment (SDG5) and the importance of “water and sanitation” (SDG 6) and the connection between the two. Recent reports inter alia by the High Level Panel on Water[ii] (HLPW), the UN Water synthesis report[iii], the UN Women and Global Water Partnership Action Piece[iv] all make the connection and suggest venues for action.
The UN Water report[v] explicitly mentions the connection between SDG targets and gender inequality [SDG 5.1, 5.2, 5.4, 5.5] and other inequalities [10.1–10.3]. The reports signal that as countries roll out their national implementation strategies, it is paramount that investments in these and other strategic areas are prioritized (UN Women). Addressing both SDG 5 and 6 requires a strong emphasis on strategic gender interests and redressing existing inequalities in power and status, not just addressing practical needs (HLPW).
The core of the Agenda 2030 is how countries and national entities handle and respond to these targets and challenges and interlinkages. WfWP and partners hence analyzed the voluntary national reports (2016-2018) on the combination of the two: did countries address the joined implementation of SDG 5 and 6?
This year, Member States are presenting their voluntary national reports on SDG 6.
First outcomes of the analysis seem to indicate that:
WfWP President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen:
"One of the initiatives to create more attention to the inclusion of women is to announce a special UN International Year on Water and Women. A special year can emphasize the positive role of women in the success of water projects, in innovation and more efficient use of resources. It can give a boost to the inclusion of women in the water world: from decisions about allocation of means, to training and education to (Citizens) monitoring & evaluation. It can give a boost to cope with water scarcity, since women play important roles to preserve the precious resource and are the main users in agriculture, health care and domestically.
With or without an international UN year, means are always necessary to include women on an equal basis in the water sector. The NGO/CSW publication a gendered approach to HLPF proposes to start a global fund for SDG5 based on the positive experiences of other global funds. WfWP applauds that idea and recommends a special fund for Water and Women."
The introduction of mentioned report makes clear action has to be taken to keep the momentum: “I hadn’t realized how important and useful our Report is until I looked at the Voluntary National Reviews that have been submitted to date for HLPF 2018 and realized that SDG 5 on Gender Equality, let alone anything on women and girls, is rarely mentioned; if women are mentioned, it is in the context of reproductive health, maternal mortality, education, and security, not water, sanitation, clean energy, sustainable communities or responsible consumption. It is as if SDG 5 on Gender Equality was last year’s consideration without the realization that gender equality must suffuse all of the SDGs in order for them to be implemented.” (Susan O’Malley, Chair, NGO CSW/NY)
Organizer and co-organizers: Permanent Mission of Hungary to the UN, Women and Water Partnership
Contributors: International Federation of Business and Professional Women, Soroptimist International, NGO Coordination Commission on the Status of Women
Chair: H.E. Ambassador Katalin Annamária Bogyay, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN
Moderator: Ms Seemin Qayum, Policy Advisor of UN-Women on Sustainable Development
- Keynote presentation by Ms Uschi Eid, former chairperson of the UN Secretary-Generals' Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) on the results of the voluntary national reports about the role of women in the implementation of SDG 6 and water related targets
- Sharing experiences around the integration of women and, or the combined implementation of SDG 5 and 6 as well as ideas of countries that have both SDGs in their top priorities by (representatives of) Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands, European Commission - External Action Service
- Ms Lesha Witmer, member of the Women for Water Partnership Steering Committee on State of affairs of recent reports and tools
- Ms Mariet Verhoef-Cohen President of Women for Water Partnership and Soroptimist International (closing remarks)
More info on HLPF 2018:
[ii] https://waterpartnership.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Gender-Goal6-Critical-Connection.pdf and see “ what success looks like” graph
[iii] http://dialogue.unwater.org/app/uploads/2018/05/SDG-6-Synthesis-Report-2018-on-Water-and-Sanitation_UNEDITED.pdf (pages 16 and 17)