Women, Men, and Water Management

Why the Water Sector Needs More Women Leaders

In many countries, women collect water and manage its use in the home, but they are underrepresented in decision-making about this vital natural resource.

"In many countries around the globe, women tend to be the ones using and managing water in the home day to day. (As Sankaran put it, 'Combine all the needs [in a household for] water and plan that in that one hour. That’s what my mom was, incredibly, capable of doing.') According to a report UNICEF released in 2012, women in 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend a combined total of at least 16 million hours each day collecting drinking water, compared with 6 million hours for men and 4 million hours for children.

"As the report explains, most households in these countries did not have water on their premises as of 2010. 'In 71 percent of all households without water on the premises, women or girls are mainly responsible for water collection. In 29 percent of households, men or boys assume this task...'"

"[R}esearchers have found that water systems work better when women get involved in the decision-making. According to one study, published in the journal Waterlines, 'global evidence indicates that women’s participation in Water User Committees (WUCs) has been limited,' but 'their involvement in management has correlated with more effective water systems.' Another study looked at the economic and social roles of women in water-resources development projects in Egypt, and found that 'the success of water projects is depending partially on the women [sic] role.'

"Finally, a report from the UNDP, with case studies from throughout the Global South, reached a similar conclusion. When Brazil, for example, focused on fostering women’s leadership, 'women involved led a successful process of environmental education and river and vegetation rehabilitation,' and in the process, 'women’s political participation was strengthened and public perceptions regarding their leadership capability were changed.' There was also “
ncreased community mobilization of people of all ages and backgrounds.'”