World Water Week: Rising tide of women’s leadership in transboundary cooperation

Written by Bhavna Bhasin, on 1 September 2022

Women are pivotal to the way water is shared and cared for, and water diplomacy is incomplete without their voices and leadership. This was the key point conveyed by a World Water Week session in Stockholm that aimed to supported women’s leadership in high-level decision-making in transboundary basins.

Participants in the session, A Rising Tide: Shared Vision for Women in Water Diplomacy, organized by the Women in Water Diplomacy Network, were invited to join the network members in the release of their new Global Strategy and 2022 Global Network Joint Statement. The document details the aims and objectives of the Network, as well as its strategic pillars and guiding principles. IHE Delft supports the network as part of its Water and Development Partnership Programme (phase 2) and endorses the strategy, which details concrete steps for women’s empowerment and urges institution to prioritize improvement of gender equality in decision-making in transboundary water governance.

Sharing experiences

Speakers at the session noted that solid evidence shows that higher female participation is higher often bring more sustainable outcomes of discussions and negotiations. Speakers also shared personal experiences that relayed the pervasiveness of water.

“Women have been managing water since time immemorial. We walk long distances for water; when there are floods or drought, we suffer the most. Our knowledge needs to be harnessed at all levels – regional and international,” said panelist Theresa Khakasa Wasike, Director of Administration in the Ministry of Water, Kenya.

Stressing on the need to pause and revisit the past, panelist Zodwa Dlamini, South Africa’;s former Chief Delegate and Permanent Representative on the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission, noted: “We have come a long way, but before we move further, let us remember our history, her history, your history, the sisters’ history.”

Community of care

IHE Delft PhD candidate Alyssa Offutt, a network member, said she was inspired by working with fellow network members at World Water Week.

“There is a wonderful community of care and support amongst the women diplomats and male champions. There is a clear feeling of accountability to create spaces for and mentor the next generation of women in water diplomacy, and to promote and support each other to elevate the status of women in cooperation over transboundary river basins,” she said.

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