Gender Analysis – a Tool for Transforming Water Resources Management

In a series of inter-regional discussions, GWP Senior Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist Liza Debevec is investigating what GWP as an institution can do to apply gender equality and social inclusion in its practical work. From the GWP Gender Action Piece, published in 2017, she looks at the 4 action areas that were identified as key to progress. This month, she talked to Colin Herron and Fabiola Tábora about Action Area 2 – gender and inclusion analysis that drives change. Both Herron and Tábora are involved in finalizing complementary gender analyses in their respective areas of expertise – global and regional (Central America) – and they discuss how to use the findings to transform water resources management through gender mainstreaming.

Liza Debevec started her series of discussions by exploring the role of institutional leadership and commitment, which represent Action Area 1 of the GWP Gender Action Piece. Now she is moving on to Action Area 2, which states that quality analysis is necessary to ensure that equality is maximised.

The regional perspective

Fabiola Tábora is Executive Secretary of GWP Central America. In collaboration with GWP South America, she is involved in a regional gender study, which will soon be completed.

Tábora says the two GWP regions decided to carry out the study because they were aware of the need to strengthen the regional gender focus on water management at the policy level. And last year, their participation in GWP’s worldwide mapping on progress for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – specifically on indicator SDG 6.5.1, which measures the degree of implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) – made them realize they didn’t know the status of gender inclusion at water or climate change policy levels.

“This was one of the questions included in the questionnaire – it asked specifically how gender is included in water management at policy level. But it turned out the countries were not aware of how this is happening, if it is included or not. So, it became a matter of perceptions – what the participants of the consultations thought. Because of this, it became important as a follow-up to do a study that can tell us what the status of gender at the policy level is. We wanted to know for water resources, but also link it to the climate change agenda.”

The global perspective

Colin Herron works in the global GWP secretariat as Global Coordinator, Water Solutions for SDGs. He is involved in a gender analysis at the global level, titled “Understanding and advancing gender-sensitive responses to Integrated Water Resources Management, in line with SDG indicator 6.5.1”.

“There was a similar driving force behind our efforts, my starting point was also the SDG 6.5.1 consultations. Thirty-three questions were included in the questionnaire – questions that countries evaluated to get a temperature check on each of the aspects of IWRM. One of the questions was on gender, and how well it is mainstreamed in policies and practices on water. What was interesting, is that in 2017 and 2018, when the baseline of this indicator was established, a lot of countries put ‘not applicable’ in their responses, and we wondered why that was. How could gender not be an issue in their water management strategies? When we delved into it, we understood that in a lot of country cases, this was dealt with on the constitution level or in broad national frameworks, but not specific to water.”

Herron says that while some of the countries are advanced in terms of their gender mainstreaming strategies, many others did not seem to be looking into this topic, which made his team realize the need to dig deeper to surface good examples.

“A lot of countries flagged that they’re not necessarily where they would like to be, and they looked for guidance on how to improve. And that’s where GWP steps in – GWP’s role is to help countries improve their water resources management.”

The findings

“Some of the findings are that gender is included at the policy level, but mainly in climate change, because of international frameworks that oblige countries to work on it,” says Tábora about the regional study.

She thinks funding is a big reason for this: “For instance, if you want to raise funds or prepare project proposals for the Green Climate Fund, you need to include gender issues in your projects. This has been one of the main pushes for governments to start working on gender. But when it comes to water resources, this is not really reflected or included.”

And while most of the countries have gender policies that include both water and climate change, Tábora says gender is not necessarily reflected in water resources policies. “You don’t see it. So, we need to connect the agendas. We need to make sure we don’t work in silos – we don’t want SDGs from one side, water from the other side, and climate change from another side.”

In the global study, GWP engaged a group of consultants who analysed the different country responses and different groupings of countries – from those who replied ‘not applicable’ to those who gave themselves a score between zero and 100. This was used as a starting point to understand what makes a country mark themselves at any given level, and analyse and make proposals for the levers that could enable them to progress in their gender mainstreaming strategies.

“And it’s clear that it goes much beyond just having a broad national policy framework for gender. That is good to get started, but you also need specific actions and policies which are grounded within the water community,” says Herron.

“By looking into gender with a subset of 23 countries, we have unearthed some interesting preliminary findings, but of course there is no copy/paste solution – you can’t say that country A has a core mechanism, so country Z please try it. But we see there are opportunities for cross-pollination, which we will be looking to facilitate,” says Herron.

What next?

Herron says the global study will lead to a workshop with the country focal points that took part in the study, and a webinar for anyone interested: “To delve a bit more deeply into it and to see if there’s an appetite to continue the shared learning.”

However, Herron says he wants more from the study: “I really want to use it as a steppingstone to go further in changing aspects that currently inhibit progress on gender mainstreaming. I’d love to identify countries that want to work on this, at the highest level possible, ideally even heads of state level.”

Tábora hopes the regional study will help break down barriers: “One of the next steps is sharing the results, because there are differences between the countries that were involved. This is an opportunity to learn, to identify the lessons learned and do some cross-pollination. This might also help us find out how to give specific support, maybe in a pilot country, to make sure the different agendas – SDGs, climate, and water – are connected and not working as silos.”

Herron adds: “One of my big aspirations would be to take a country where you can see the before and after gender transformative approach and see how it has improved water resources management in the country over a long time scale. This requires vision and long-term political support, but if we could do that, I think the clarion call to many other countries would be a lot louder.”

Covering the 2 remaining action areas, Liza Debevec will talk to experts in other GWP regions about meaningful and inclusive participation in decision-making and partnerships, and equal access to and control of resources. For more information on any of this, you are welcome to reach out to her at