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13 Oct 2015 | News

Making local water use planning gender inclusive

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A one-day workshop was held 22 September 2015 to increase the participation of women and marginalised groups in local-level water management in Sindhupalchowk, Sindhuli, and Saptari districts of the Koshi Basin. Part of a joint initiative between International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Australian Aid-supported Koshi Basin Programme and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Nepal, the workshop encouraged better local water management through the use of water use master plans (WUMPs) in the basin.

ICIMOD has been working with HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation since 2014 to promote effective, efficient, and equitable water management in the Koshi Basin. Many areas of the basin face challenges around water availability, distribution, and use. The project aims to improve water access and ensure equitable distribution through WUMPs. These plans locally-prepared and lay out a five year usage strategy for all water related issues, including: irrigation, drinking water, sanitation, and disaster risk reduction.

The 44 workshop participants included VDC secretaries, social mobilisers, and both male and female representatives from local water resource management committees and village water sanitation and hygiene coordination committees. The workshop aimed to identify gaps and opportunities in gender equality and social inclusion in current water management, compare HELVETAS approaches that have been used in previous WUMPs, and how to better include women, poor, and disadvantaged groups in WUMP preparation and implementation.

Led by a gender expert, participants divided into three groups according to their district and dis-cussed how to better include gender-sensitive policy into WUMPs. It was emphasised that communities are working to promote greater inclusion in water management practice, but WUMP reports don’t always show this progress. Later, participants agreed the biggest gap between current local level water management and gender inclusion was not having an indicator to measure power relations among different people, such as women, men, Dalit, and ethnic groups. Having an indicator would help to reflect such dynamics in reports. In the short term, they recommended clarifying staff understanding of their roles and responsibilities in water management system.

Long term goals were to prioritise the opinions and views of women while creating plans at the ward and VDC levels, and providing training for both men and women. Participants also suggested establishing proper monitoring, evaluation and follow up methods to ensure sustainability of gender inclusion in WUMPs.

The workshop provided a space for participants to discuss opportunities, challenges, and constraints of gender inclusion in local-level water management. They identified a common strategy to improve gender inclusion in creating the local water planning process. There is a need to build the capacity of local stakeholders in gender inclusion, in theory and practice, so women and other marginalised groups are fully represented in water use master plans.

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