VWI is starting a workstream to strengthen the values of women in water decision making

This workstream is aimed at exploring the intersection of water, decision-making, and gender more deeply. As part of the activities to kickstart this journey, VWI participated in the Second Global Forum of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network (WiWDN), a group focused on supporting women’s participation in high-level decision-making in transboundary and international water governance.

Given this year’s World Water Day theme, ‘Water for Peace’, the Women in Water Diplomacy Network (WiWDN). The event provided fertile ground to discuss central topics around water for cooperation. Among the learnings, it is crucial to highlight how water can become one of the primary subjects of cooperation among conflicting parties. Moreover, peace and transboundary agreements tend to last longer when women are involved. However, women are still largely excluded from these processes. In this context, it is exciting to see how the WiWDN has grown since its launch in 2017, with members from Africa, Central Asia, North America, Latin America, and Europe.

Removing barriers
This network has identified some of the main challenges women face when participating in diplomacy. These challenges include a lack of funds, conflict-ridden settings, language barriers, political barriers restricting movement (such as visa issuance), and how these barriers differ based on intersectional factors such as race, socioeconomic context, or religion. Following the philosophy of the network, removing these barriers will contribute to improved inclusive decision-making.

A better understanding of the current challenges
Participating in this event provided a much better understanding of the diversity, knowledge, and experiences currently facing significant obstacles for inclusion. The personal experiences shared by all participating individuals highlighted the amount of work still needed, even for those already involved in water diplomacy. Progress was made with the participation of non-English speakers, mothers with young babies, and individuals with reduced mobility, facilitated by the willingness of organizers and funders to accommodate them.

Women in water and VWI
According to UNESCO, women are responsible for securing water in 7 out of 10 households without drinking water connections, yet women occupy less than 17% of jobs in the water sector. The High Level Panel on Water (HLPW), convened by the United Nations and World Bank, emphasised that valuing water means recognising and empowering under-represented groups, particularly women, youth and local communities. This is enshrined in the first Valuing Water Principle – to recognise and embrace water’s multiple values to different groups and in the second principle: to reconcile values in a way that’s inclusive and equitable and builds trust among stakeholders.

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