Outcomes from International Women’s Day and World Water Day 2021

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International Women’s Day (8 March) and World Water Day (22 March) provided an important opportunity to promote Australia’s development support for women and water, and their invaluable contribution to climate-resilient communities.

Women, water and climate change are inextricably linked. Clean, safe and accessible water for everyone in the community plays a critical role in addressing poverty and contributing to economic and human development. Cohesive and fair communities are naturally more resilient, including to shocks from a changing climate or disease outbreaks.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) supports water for development through several projects in the Indo-Pacific region under two key programs—the Australian Water Partnership (AWP) and Water for Women. Both programs have also played an active role in Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery policy to support the region’s preparedness, response and recovery from COVID-19.

The AWP marked these days by collaborating with DFAT and Water for Women through an online campaign to highlight gender and socially inclusive water resource management and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). DFAT, together with these flagship initiatives, reflected on the value of water and the value of women—both water and women are critical to building healthy and climate-resilient communities on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The stories were shared through partners’ websites and social media channels, including by Australian Ambassadors in countries where they operate.

UN International Women’s Day on 8 March centered around women in leadership: achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis as health care workers, caregivers, policymakers, activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and community organisers. The global pandemic has highlighted the disproportionate burdens that women carry and the importance of women’s contributions to decision making.

For example, women like Sulochana Devi are highlighting the value of women as leaders and the value of water in Australia’s development programs—challenging gender stereotypes within more traditional social systems. Sulochana is considered a champion of conservation agriculture in her community, leading a women’s farmers group in rural Bihar, North India, where farming is the major source of income for families.

Likewise, Yarra Valley Water is challenging perceptions of gender roles in the water utility sector. They are partnered with an Indonesian water utility through AWP’s Australia-Indonesia Water Utility Improvement Program which aims to foster knowledge exchange and build capacity in water and wastewater delivery, while committing to a more gender inclusive workplace.

UN World Water Day on 22 March revolved around valuing water— how we value water determines how we manage and share this precious resource. AWP and partners reflected on the various uses of water and the values attached to them in the context of today’s external pressures, such as climate change, water scarcity, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

AWP partners are addressing urban flooding in the Mekong by valuing the benefits of Nature-based Solutions in Thailand and Vietnam. The program is providing policymakers and practitioners with an alternative approach for effective and sustainable water management to mitigate water-related natural disasters while providing human wellbeing and biodiversity benefits.

AWP partners also demonstrated how they are responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic through digital knowledge sharing, by transporting water utility practitioners from Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos to water treatment plants in Australia via virtual reality technology.

Australia’s support of ‘water for development’ and actions taken to safeguard the resource for sustainable use as well as actions to improve water as the first line of health protection in the Indo-Pacific region draw on Australian expertise applied to local contexts. By exploring activities where Australia has provided support to protect water resources and deliver clean WASH, we may realise a comprehensive understanding of water’s true, multidimensional value.

View all the stories shared by DFAT, AWP and Water for Women during International Women’s Day and World Water Day below.

 

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