UNDP Around the world

Gender and Water

Why does ‘gender’ matter to a water manager?
In most developing countries women and girls are responsible for collecting and using water for household purposes while mainly men make decisions about water resources management and development at both local and national levels. In a rapidly changing world where water scarcity, climate variability and climate change, disasters and conflicts are affecting access to safe and sustainable water resources, women are especially vulnerable. Prevailing social inequalities mean women typically have less means and capacity to cope and adapt and consequently bear a disproportional burden of increased competition and climate change induced consequences on water.

UNDP’s Response
UNDP advocates the principle that policies, programmes and projects that address gender inequalities will ensure more equitable water resources management and human development opportunities for both women and men. Productive versus domestic use of water, women’s and men’s access to and control over water and land, credit and extension services as well as participation in water governance are examples of issues that need to be addressed.

UNDP is working to include a gender approach in water initiatives because:

  • Involving both women and men in integrated water resources management initiatives can increase project effectiveness.
  • Using a gender perspective and ensuring women's involvement can support environmental sustainability.
  • Social and economic analysis - as well as documenting natural resource uses - is incomplete without an understanding of gender differences and inequalities.
  • Without specific attention to gender issues, initiatives and projects can reinforce inequalities between women and men and even increase imbalances.
  • The mainstreaming of gender is critical to reaching the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Resource Guide
The UNDP Water Governance Programme, in collaboration with UNDP Regional Bureaux, UNDP Country Offices, and the Gender and Water Alliance, has developed a practical tool that will assist UNDP staff to incorporate gender perspectives in a variety of water initiatives. The goal of the initiative is to improve the sustainability of water projects through the incorporation of gender equality perspectives throughout the planning cycle.

The Resource Guide on Gender and Water Management has been developed to assist practitioners in mainstreaming gender within 13 water sub-sectors to facilitate access for specific purposes and water uses. The sub-sectors of the resources guide cover among others sanitation and hygiene, water supply, agriculture, coastal zone management, capacity building and gender responsive budgeting. Introductions to the sub-sectors describe current policy debates and gender issues. The resource guide consolidates available materials and gives a quick guide to accessing existing information such as references, resources (including manuals and guidelines), case studies and relevant websites.

The guide is available in nine languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Urdu and Bangla. For each language region, apart from the translations of the original English text, the resources guide has also been contextualized with analysis of gender and water policies and key issues in the region as well as case studies and other resources sourced from grey literature, journals, articles and books specific to the language region. It is continually updated to keep abreast of new materials, information and concepts.

UNDP’s capacity building programme Cap-Net in association with the Gender and Water Alliance has developed 'Why Gender Matters: A Tutorial for water managers'.

The tutorial which is primarily aimed at those people interested in or responsible for managing water resources aims to show how addressing gender will improve efficiency of water use and environmental sustainability, as well as social benefits and equity from use of water resources. It also helps capacity builders to include gender issues in their training and educational programmes. The tutorial is available in English and Spanish.