Women Initiative Program

Women Initiative Program, under the Grassroots and Citizens Commission, means to raise public awareness on the connections between women and water; to provide expertise and experience on how to incorporate gender approaches, including equity mainstreaming, into standard practices for policy advisors, program developers, donors, local authorities, and other stakeholder groups when relevant; as well as to ensure women’s presences, involvements, and contributions as a major group along the Forum process.

The Minister of Water Supply and Drainage of Sri Lanka, Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, addressed the importance of involving women in the water issues and management as follows:

"The 6th World Water Forum takes place at a time where water related crises are heightened by impacts of climate change. To ensure that communities are strengthened to stand up to these challenges we must make sure to involve the half of humanity which is usually ignored, namely women. Women's voices must be heard, considered and respected at every level in order to ensure sustainability in the water sector. The government of Sri Lanka recognizes that women play a critical role in management of these systems and seeks to support them with affirmative action."

Under the Women Initiative, the NGO Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) (http://www.womenforwater.org/openbaar/index.php), with the 6th World Water Forum Secretariat, co-organised the 3rd Pre-Conference (after the previous World Water Fora in Mexico and Turkey) for women and their organisations right before the Forum.

The pre-conference was held in Marseille from March 10th – 11th 2012. The theme of the preparatory conference is Women Leadership in Water.


Download the programme of the Pre-conference here.

The following are the three priority themes for the pre-conference, for which best practices/ solutions from the world were presented and discussed with the angles of different stakeholders:

1) Women’s role in water and food security

With growing world population, increased competition for natural resources and advanced attention given to environmental issues, water for food has become a major issue to be tackled. Evidently, water plays a critical role in achieving food security: it is indeed a challenge to produce better quality food while using less water. Women are responsible for more than half of the world’s food production hence their leadership role in providing water and food security is crucial.

2) Community water supply

For major health, social and economic reasons, it is critical to provide a community with increased access to water. Most importantly, a community needs water for very basic needs, such as drinking, food preparation, sanitation, bathing, laundry, and cleaning. Women have a proven success in organising bottom-up community involvement making the supply systems demand driven, tailor made and community owned.

3) Water, peace and security from a women’s perspective

Water related conflicts exist around the world. There have been numerous acts of violence over water resources which make it an important security issue in the current global context. Involving local water users in sustainable use and management of resources, priority setting and discussions on water sharing are increasingly important to prevent conflict and solve existing problems. Women are known for their conflict prevention attitude. In addition, water and food security are a basis of stability and a driving force for the social and economic empowerment of women.

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9 recommendations were formulated at the Preconference, presented with details in the high-level Women Session and shared with thematic, regional, and political sessions during the Forum:

  1. Let us move from talking to action !
  2. Needs-based approach! We know the what, involve us in the how!
  3. Empower women to play central role in the provision, management and safeguarding of water!
  4. Sustainability of watsan provision and management is a social issue, not a technical issue!
  5. Involve us as opportunities for rapid change! Promote women’s leadership!
  6. Dare to let go and delegate responsibility to local level!
  7. In times of crisis, put your money where your mouth is!
  8. From policies to implementation, the principal actors change!
  9. Create a gender sensitive cadre of young water professionals!

The special high-level session were organized on 14th March. Together with the process’s leading organization Women for Water Partnership and representatives of civil society and other stakeholders, the high level speakers who represented the UNWater, Ministries of Environment and Water of Uganda, France and South Africa, USAID, Korea Women Development Forum, Green Cross, etc. committed themselves to be partners in achieving water and food security for all and to implement the concrete solutions out of the Forum.  To that effect, they will:

  • Empower women as agents of change;
  • Strengthen women’s organisations and their role in community development;
  • Develop and strengthen gender sensitisation for governments and water professionals;
  • Strengthen intergenerational equity;
  • Work towards the establishment of an International Women and Water Day;
  • Monitor progress and report to global fora.
  • Other activities organized under the Women Initiative at the Forum include:
  • Gender and Water: Solutions for Water Decision - Making in Lusophones Countries (15th March, 2012 12:00 -13:45 in Brazilian Pavillion)
  • Women booth in the Exhibition Area
  • 2 exhibitions about women and water

Key Partners (This list is not definite)

WfWP members: Katosi Women Development Trust, MAMA-86, The National Women’s Movement Suriname, Tegemeo’s Women Group- Tanzania, Women Environmental Programme- Nigeria, Women's Resource and Outreach Centre- Jamaica, Women Farmers Advancement Network-Nigeria, Women in Sustainable Development of Moldova, Women and Labour Market Foundation-Netherland, Tanzania Gender Networking Programme, Mehriban- Uzbekistan, Earth Forever- Bulgaria, Consultoriá Sanitaria y Ambiental- Columbia, Black Sea Women, Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment, 4 women's organisations-Netherland, Women Professionals in Land Use Sector –Nepal, etc

As well as: Soroptimist International, BPW International, FAO, WWF, Nile Basin Discourse, 1000 peace women, Green Cross International, GWP, UNWater, NetWwater, Women and Water Platforum Turkey, China Women's Development Foundation, Bangladesh Water Partnership, Association friends of Ibrahim Abd el al, Rain Water Harvesting Forum Sri Lanka, Shirkat Gah Peshawar, Femmes de demain, University of Pennsylvania, etc.

Related link:


If you have any general question related to the Women Initiative, please contact waterandwomen@worldwaterforum6.org

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