Women’s Role in Water

Presentation made by Imanol Aguilera on the Benefits of the Human Rights-Based Approach

Our HR2W colleague Imanol Aguilera discussed the negative impacts of unequal water access on the lives of women during the UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The event Water Pressure: sector specific public allocation for women’s empowerment – clean, affordable and gender equitable access to water took place on March 27th of 2023. Together with speakers Nurgul Dzhanaeva (Forum of women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan), and Raymond Saner (Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development), they also covered the positive externalities generated by improved access for these groups on their families as well as communities at large.

Women’s role in relation to water is complex and multi-faceted. Women often exceed their status as users and encompass the roles of providers, managers and protectors of water related facilities and resources. Despite these important roles, women and girls continue to be left behind, they remain disproportionately exposed to environmental harm, and water related decisions are often made by men.

The systematic adoption of a Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) in development programming, locally-led decision making, improved participation of women, as well as improved transparency and accountability, were highlighted as essential elements to improve access to water and sanitation for women and girls and the communities in which they live. In particular, the panelists highlighted that water is essentially a local problem, and that different communities face different issues that require different responses at different levels.

The HRBA places a lot of importance on how we think about information and on how we disaggregate the data that is available on the ground. What becomes essential when looking at quantitative and qualitative information is to identify patterns, and to ascertain whether it is always the same categories of people who are disproportionately affected. That is when issues of gender, income, ethnic background, religion, come into play. Shifting the way we think about data will help directing policy efforts to improve the lives of those who are often left behind by governmental policies, notably women and girls.

Importance of disaggregated data – Presentation by Imanol Aguilera