The Dublin principles for Water in 1992 adopted gender mainstreaming as a requisite for sustainable water management. This first step in recognizing the link between social equity and sustainable water management highlights the different needs and skills of men and women as users and managers, and helped to draw attention to the low levels of female participation in decision making in water management.
Since then, gender issues feature in most international conferences on water management and it has become a basic requirement for donors. However, in practice most water management initiatives still fail to effectively address gender relations in their design and implementation, and most policy discussions and scientific analyses continue to approach gender and general equity challenges as a separate dimension.
Why exactly does gender mainstreaming prove to be so difficult? Have we shown that it makes a difference? Are guidelines and manuals for gender mainstreaming useful and used? What needs to be changed to address gender inequities in field projects, research and policy frameworks?
A minimum agenda
The Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, Both ENDS, and the Gender and Water Alliance joined forces and set out to agree on a minimum agenda that provides practical and realistic recommendations to water practitioners, policy makers and researchers working in the field of water and agriculture to effectively mainstream gender. Based on three months of research and analysis of field experiences, it is clear that all actors can make significant contributions to and have much to gain from gender mainstreaming, but they need clear and pragmatic approaches.
Since November 2005, gender experts, researches, practitioners and policy makers have contributed to a first draft of a minimum agenda through an expert meeting, an online discussion and a survey on existing ‘gender mainstreaming’ guidelines and manuals. General conclusions from these activities are that many gender mainstreaming tools may be available but are unknown and not accessible. They are often too complex, and lack cultural sensitivity and are therefore not tailored to the local situations, excluding ‘non-gender experts’ from their use. Terminology and language are major constraints. For more on this, visit the dynamic webspace on gender.
A closer look at the roles, rights and responsibilities of women and men in water management for agriculture is necessary from a rights-based perspective, but local examples also show that increased equity boosts efficiency and sustainability. Existing experiences are positive, but actual changes are extremely difficult to realize.
Addressing gender goes beyond checking boxes off a list, involving a gender expert at the end of a project or policy process, or defining the quota of women to be included. It requires transforming organizational cultures and politics, and calls for a redistribution of powers, resources, and opportunities in favor of the marginalized.
Our minimum agenda challenges us all to take practical action to gender mainstreaming. This agenda needs your input.
Please share your expertise, views and suggestions!
Read the minimum agenda and fill the questionnaire.
If you are in Mexico at the Fourth World Water Forum, you can meet us on our booths : Freshwater action network, Women's coalition and CA/CP/IWMI.