"It is not enough to have women sitting in a meeting"
During the 8th edition of the World Water Forum, taking place 19-23 March 2018 in Brasilia, the overarching theme “Sharing Water” is suggested within the technical, political and institutional context to share ideas among the civil society, share solutions and good practices, share benefits for water use and, more generally and widely, share actions between countries.
Participation is a topic close to the very heart of Women for Water Partnership. WfWP President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen: "When talking about participation, I talk about meaningful participation. It is not enough to have women sitting in a meeting, it is important to create an atmosphere to enable women to raise their voices. Experience shows that having at least 40% of women in water governing bodies helps ensure their voices are actually heard." Read the full speech
WfWP sent a strong delegation to Brasilia and was involved in no less than 25 sessions during the week. Our strategy is to integrate attention to women in regular sessions and position women as agents of change, leaders and partners to achieve equal access to water and safe sanitation.
We have also been intensively involved in the preparations towards this major event, such as the The Water, Life and Human rights conference, Your Voice (an open online platform inviting people around the world to collaborate and influence the Forum discussions), the "Commitment of the Women of Brasilia in Favor of Water" and the production of the Ambassadors of Water video broadcast at the event this week.
Floods, Droughts, Wind, Fire: Building Resilient Agricultural Systems - The role of women
Agriculture is the single largest employment source globally and represents 80 percent of the world’s working poor. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia 60-70 percent of women work in agriculture. The vast majority of this work is informal, seasonal, and difficult, dangerous and de-valued.
Women are crucial in translating agricultural production - including livestock, crops, fisheries, agro-forestry, and wild-harvesting of foods - into food and nutrition security for their families, their communities, and their nations. They cultivate food crops, produce commercial crops alongside men, manage livestock, grow vegetables in home gardens, fish, and harvest from the forest.
Women also use their local knowledge for wild-harvesting of nutritious foods and herbs to provide food and nutrition security for their families. In short, a many women are involved in agricultural practices, although to be honest, we do not hear a lot about their contributions. The work they are doing is often invisible. That has to change!
Read the full speech of WfWP President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen
Read The Ministerial Declaration of the 8th World Water Forum entitled "Urgent call for decisive action on the water"
Check also the news pages of the Dutch Water Sector pavilion in Brasilia.
"You are everywhere"
“ You are everywhere” was one of the comments heard in the corridors of the 8th World Water Forum in Brazil and that was exactly the objective of Women for Water Partnership . Ensuring that the perspective of women was included in all sessions, instead of organising a specific women’s conference was our new strategy and it worked!
During the preparation phase we lobbied for the inclusion of women and youth in all panels and that rule was visibly applied. Contrary to the past water fora, in most panels both women and youth were present, with one big exception: the opening of the world water forum was a men’s-only show.
Women for Water Partnership itself was present with 9 participants and co-organiser of the regional European process, thematic process on water governance, Your Voice as well as speaker or moderator in 25 sessions. Below you will find a short impression of our activities during the forum.
On Monday 19 March we organised a special session on “Aquawareness” in which the new director of Aquafed, Neil Doth, spoke about the connection between people not being aware of the state of affairs of water systems and the lack of investments to maintain, renew or adapt these systems. Initiatives to make people aware were presented like the campaign “Walking for Water” organised by Aquafed as well as the ones organised by UN Water on World Water Day and World Toilet Day.
Also on Monday, WfWP President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen was invited by the Escola Superior do Ministério Público da União for a round table interview about challenges and solutions to improve social governance in water as well as for the high level dialogue on Science and Policy. Both are needed to solve global water challenges. The European report was launched to which WfWP contributed and there were sessions to open the thematic process, in which Steering Committee member Diana Iskreva participated. Another Steering Committee member, Lesha Witmer, was involved in the opening of the regional process.
On Tuesday the 20th of March, a highlight was the session initiated by Brazilian women representing Soroptimist International and Business and Professional Women International, both member organisations of WfWP. The session celebrated the process which started in April 2017 to organise workshops in different regions in Brazil to discuss the role of women in water. They are called the Water Ambassadors. In the panel Arzu Ozyol, Margarida Yassuda, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen and Lesha Witmer shared their experiences and encouraged the Brazilian women to continue their journey.
Mariet Verhoef-Cohen was a key note speaker in a session called: Floods, Droughts, Wind, Fire and focused on resilient agricultural practices of women. She mentioned the example of our member NetWwater in Sri Lanka and initiatives in India, Senegal and South Africa.
Diana Iskreva was actively involved in the “Your Voice” e-platform to enable citizens to speak out and discuss water issues in e-rooms during the past year. “Your voice” was visited by 151,609 unique visitors, representing 209 countries. In a session about the implementation of inclusive policies, Steering Committee Member Asha Abdulrahman told the story of all stakeholders to take action on the pollution of Lake Naivasha in Kenya.
The following day, Asha Abdulrahman was a speaker in the special session about urban poverty & water and Mariet Verhoef in the session about new cultures of participation. Lesha Witmer participated in a panel of a highly interactive session about water governance in which the OECD announced the publication about practices to implement the Water Governance Principles. Lesha Witmer stressed the importance of knowing that you have all stakeholders around the table and not only include the ones you know.
On Thursday there was a session dedicated to women about their perspectives and challenges in the water sector. The session was organised by Margarida Yassuda and moderated by one of the founders of WfWP, Alice Bouman. Our member of Myanmar, Nini Thin Kein, was a speaker as well as Asha Abdulrahman and Arzu Ozyol.
The role of women as leaders in water programmes was emphasised as well as the importance of sex disaggregated data and direct funding for women and their organisations. Lesha Witmer organised a session about water and migration. Scarcity of water is increasingly acknowledged as one of the reasons for people to leave their countries. In another session Asha Abdulrahman explained about the effectiveness of peer learning as a method of capacity development by showing the example of Tegemeo Women Group in Tanzania. These women became leaders in their communities and nowadays the government is listening to them.
During the closing ceremony in which the results of all the different processes were presented, the presence of women at the panels was highlighted… and that shows that the strategy of integration contrary to separation of women was a success.