A historic Conference aimed at influencing policy making and implementation of strategies to promote gender mainstreaming in the water sector was held from 3 – 7 November 2014 in East London, South Africa.
The Gender and Water Conference which was attended by about 400 delegates was hosted by the Water Research Commission together with South Africa’s Department of Water Affairs, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), the Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In her opening remarks South Africa’s Minister of Water and Sanitation Hon. Nomvula Mokonyane called on the conference to address the plight of women who spent early mornings fetching water and sometimes experienced abuse in the process.
Delegates to the conference included representatives from grassroots groups, civil society, development agencies, academia, and water governance and management institutions from each of the five sub-regions of Africa.
SADC secretariat was represented by staff from the Water Sector and the Gender Unit who participated in chairing sessions and made two presentations highlighting the existing gender mainstreaming policy frameworks within the SADC region, and SADC’s interventions to mainstream gender in transboundary water management in the region.
Head of the SADC Gender Unit Mrs Magdeline Madibela said SADC recognised that gender equality was at the core of achieving the vision of a common future hence mainstreaming gender was compulsory in all SADC businesses.
Senior Programme Officer in the SADC Water Sector Mr Phera Ramoeli told the conference that a project on mainstreaming gender in transboundary water management was currently being implemented as one example of the SADC’s contribution to realize gender mainstreaming in the water sector.
During the conference, the African Ministers with responsibilities for water, sanitation, environment and development, held a one day session where they concluded with a declaration committing themselves to accelerate the implementation of the AMCOW policy and strategy for mainstreaming gender in the water sector in Africa by:
• establishing or strengthening national-level Gender and Water Desks as well as a functional Gender Unit within the AMCOW Secretariat by 2015;
• establishing national targets and a monitoring and evaluation framework for each of the seven pillars of the AMCOW gender policy and strategy, including sex-disaggregated indicators for the African context by 2016;
• reporting annually to AMCOW on progress on each of the seven pillars of the policy and strategy;
• harmonizing the reporting on the AMCOW gender strategy with other gender-inclusive reporting commitments and;
• proposing to AMCOW to introduce a Gender Day during the bi-annual Africa Water Week from 2016 onwards.
The AMCOW policy and strategy for mainstreaming gender in the water sector has the following seven objectives which should be pursued concomitantly by member states and water authorities:
• Policy positions on gender in the water sector in Africa supported and strengthened through policy formulation and implementation.
• Adequate human and financial resources allocated to gender mainstreaming through strategic resource mobilisation activities.
• Gender approach to implement project interventions at all levels within the water sector, including economic empowerment through equal access to water for productive purposes developed and adopted.
• Strategic research and collection of operational information on gender undertaken, produced, shared and used by stakeholders to inform evidence based responses.
• Human and institutional capacity developed to support gender equality interventions at all levels.
• Mechanisms to promote cooperation and coordination to mainstream gender in the water sector strengthened.
• Monitoring and Evaluation system and indicators to support gender equality interventions in the water sector developed and implemented.