Women and Water on the World stage 

The last couple of weeks, we took part in several international conferences during which we highlighted the crucial link between women’s rights/gender equality and water. Why? For the first time in around 50 years, the United Nations Water Conference took place in New York, calling on Member States, civil society and private sector to make commitments to accelerate water action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal number 6. As WECF, we were able to support a delegation of our local partners in their participation in the Water Conference.  In total over 15 partners from 12 countries joined us at the global Water Conference as speakers and moderators, bringing their expertise on a wide array of topics, from irrigation technology to menstrual health and sanitation. 

In order to aid in linking the conference to other international processes and avoid working in silos, we connected the Water Conference to two other conferences which WECF and partners attended: the Commission on the Status of Women or CSW67 for short (prior to the UN Water Conference) and the 2023 Regional Forum on sustainable development (taking place right after). In this article you will find a short overview of these key events.

Photo: Panelists of our event “Gender Transformative Water Solutions” (from left to right: Sascha Gabizon (WECF), Trupti Jain (Naireeta Services ltd), Henk Ovink (Netherlands Government), Joanita Babirye (Girls for Climate Action),  Viva Tatawaqa (DIVA for Equality).

CSW: Gender Transformative Water Solutions

During the CSW, we organized a parallel event, titled “Gender Transformative Water Solutions”. The event, moderated by our executive director Sascha Gabizon, focussed on building bridges between the women’s rights negotiations and the UN water conference, :connecting the dots between SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 6 (Water).

Henk Ovink, the Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of The Netherlands, opened the event with a motivating statement, highlighting the rarity of the opportunity that this conference offers and the necessity to work together for transformative and systemic change. He stressed that whilst women are the ones most impacted by challenges such as water scarcity and water and sanitation issues, it is also women who are key agents of changes. He then joined in on the panel discussion, featuring three amazing partners:

  • Trupti Jain, engineer, co-founder of Naireeta Services India, and Gender Just Climate Solutions Award winner, who combines women’s leadership with low cost and sustainable technology to tackle the severe impacts of excessive rain water from storms. 
  • Joanita Babirye, co-founder of Girls For Climate Action Uganda, a movement of young women and girls centering young women and girls in climate action.
  • Viva Tatawaqa, a young Pacific LBT (Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans) community facilitator and mobiliser for “DIVA for Equality” in Fiji.

All provided poignant and personal examples of how the lives of women and water are intrinsically linked and gave strong examples of proven and practical gender transformative water solutions. 

Trupti presented her innovative water reuse technology used by women farmers, and concluded that it is time to break down “the myth that women and technology do not go together”.

UN Global Water Conference 2023

In one snapshot, these were the events WECF and partners co-organised, moderated, spoke in, or supported as part of the Women’s Major Group. 

Good Practices on Integrated & Transboundary Water Cooperation

We kicked off the conference with a highly attended, official side event hosted by the Ministry of the Environment of the Republic of Moldova. Mrs. Iordanca-Rodica Iordanov, Minister of the Environment, opened the event after which several partners took the floor, including Eco-Tiras, Black Sea Women’s Club, Journalists for Human Rights and ARGO. This side event showcased good practices from stakeholder engagement in integrated and transboundary river basin cooperation from the Balkan and Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asian (EECCA) region. The event highlighted the key role of civil society and feminist organizations in water diplomacy. You can find more details about the programme of the event on this page

Photo: Civil society speakers at the official side event event (from right to left: Svitlana Slesarenok (BSWC, Ukraine), Ilya Trombitsky (EcoTiras, Moldova) and Kaisha Atakhanova (ARGO, Kazakhstan).

Special Event – Radical Collaboration for Water Resilience: Action with our greatest Allies in the Climate Crisis (Livestream)

As part of the Women’s Major Group – an alliance of organisations that coordinate feminist organisations’  input into policy processes on Sustainable Development – we supported and co-organized two special events which took place at the UN Water Conference. A section of this event was moderated by our partner Dr. Priscilla Achakpa of WEP Nigeria, who led a panel discussion featuring as well as our partner Trupti Jain from India, Kaisha Atakhanova from Kazakhstan, Mariluz Canaquiri Murayari  from Peru, Monti Aquirre from Colombia, Brook Thompson from the Yurok and Karuk nations as speakers. The event was well attended and included a very special participant, namely the King of The Netherlands, Willem Alexander.

Photo: Speakers of the special event on radical collaboration from the Women’s and Indigenous Peoples’ Major Groups.

Breaking Boundaries for efficient water diplomacy 

Еxperts and inspirational women leaders from Europe, Central Asia & beyond joined the side event hosted by UN Women Europe to discuss women’s leadership in water diplomacy. Our executive director Sascha Gabizon stressed several key priority actions such as 1) addressing challenges of transboundary water sources, 2) creating a joint water governance to ensure that particularly local women and youth have co-decision making power in Commissions, 3) paying attention to climate change and the lack of data on competing needs for the water, 4) fostering the great potential of innovative, women-led water solutions 5) addressing the concerning trend of criminalizing civil society (especially women, youth and LGBTQI+ groups) in Tajikistan and in other countries. 

We Women are Water

WECF co-hosted an event titled We Women are Water, led by GAGGA and co-hosted by the Government of Chile on financing and support for gender just water and climate solutions. You can find a comprehensive summary of this event on the GAGGA website

Plenary Statement – National Menstrual Health Strategies (WMG)

We were honored to deliver a statement in the General Assembly hall on behalf of the Women’s Major group. “Menstrual health and dignity should be at the centre of our Water and Sanitation policies, and we should do away with menstrual taboos and discrimination,” stressed Sascha Gabizon in her speech. Find the statement in full in this article and join us in encouraging governments to develop National Menstrual Health Strategies. 

Photo: Sascha Gabizon of WECF delivering Women’s Major Group statement on Menstrual health rights in the UN General Assembly hall.

Special Event – Water Leadership: Uniting for a sustainable world (Livestream).
This special event led by the youth groups featured many partners of WECF, including Brook Thompson and Gerardo Gentil Orozco, speaking on the topic of indigenous leadership. Furthermore, Andrea Nakova (Journalists for Human Rights, North-Macedonia), Bharti Kannan (Boondh Social Foundation, India) and Vika Kalokalo (DIVA, Fiji) brought forth many different perspectives on gender equality and water leadership.

Photo: Barthi Kannan and Andrea Nakova preparing for their presentations during the youth event

Sanitation and Menstrual Health

In our final side event, local partners and experts shared good practices from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Latin America on advancing the rights to safe and sustainable school sanitation and in particular menstrual health (SDG6.2.) The side event was co-organised by the Government of the Republic of North-Macedonia with empowering opening words by Ms. Jovana Trenchevska. The panel discussion sparked a lively roundtable discussion with participants, all reflecting on menstrual health action in their relevant contexts and sharing best practices from their organizations/research. You can find the full list of speakers and their topic of engagement on this page

Making Waves

The conference is not the end, but rather the beginning of stepping up for gender-transformative water action. We look forward to following the continued efforts of countries, organizations and social-entrepreneurs in realizing their commitments as gathered in the Water Action Agenda and we vouch to do our part.

We continued the conversation during the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development the following week together with our partners, particularly during the side event we hosted titled “successful stakeholder engagement to enhance SDG 6 in the Balkans and EECCA region”. You can find a recap of this conference shortly. 

We want to thank the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland for its support to the participation of WECF and  partners in the UN Water Conference.