On 30th March 2022 at the Higher School of Engineers of Medjez el-Bab (ESIM) in the city of Beja, more than 60 participants and experts from the sectors of water, climate and gender representing Ministries, national and local public authorities, civil society and academia attended the Pilot launch workshop of the Africa Water Investment Programme: Gender Equality in Water Security and Climate Resilient Development in Africa (AIP WACDEP-G) in Tunisia. The workshop was organised by GWP-Med, the Regional Commissary for Agricultural Development in Beja and the General Directorate of Water Resources of the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries of Tunisia.
Advancing gender equality for water security through the AIP-WACDEP-G programme in Tunisia
AIP WACDEP-G promotes a gender transformative approach to address existing gender imbalances concerning water insecurity and the impacts of climate change. In Tunisia, due to variations in social roles and unequal access to water, women and girls often bear a disproportionate burden from the impacts of climate change. A gender transformative approach aims to change existing power dynamics and institutional arrangements that perpetuate inequalities by observing norms, attitudes and underlying social systems. The programme employs a bottom-up approach and actively engages public sector policy and decision-makers in its implementation through an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach. Thus, a working group composed of representatives from public institutions of water, environment/climate and gender, has been created at national level. Its members participate in capacity building activities whereby they deepen their knowledge on the gender transformative approach in order to be able to make informed decisions and promote gender inclusive policies. Moreover, through these activities, cross-sectoral and cross-ministerial coordination is promoted to ensure effective policy design, implementation, and evaluation of policies and actions.
The Workshop: Esteemed Guests & Objectives
The workshop was attended by high-level representatives of national, regional and local levels of government. Mr. Mohsen Moez Mili, Governor of Beja, welcomed all participants and gave the opening speech. Mr. Raouf Jaziri, Beja's Regional Agricultural Development Commissioner and Mrs. Najla Khalfoun, representing the General Directorate of Water Resources of the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries also addressed the workshop’s participants with opening speeches.
The workshop’s objectives were threefold:
- To present the AIP WACDEP-G Tunisia project and the Tunisia pilot project to key stakeholders at local and national levels coming from the sectors of water, climate, and gender.
- To raise awareness on the gender transformative approach (GTA) for water security and equal opportunities in water and climate resilience.
- To discuss and exchange ideas between the AIP WACDEP-G national working group in Tunisia and the local stakeholders in Beja, on gender intersectionality and cooperation in the water sector, as well as the need to promote and facilitate gender investments in the water industry.
Fruitful discussions throughout the sessions on all three objectives
During the morning session, experts from sectors related to water and gender, exchanged views on the issue of equal opportunities on the water and climate resilience. Ms. El Jezia Hammami, the head of mission at the Ministry of Family, Women, and the Elderly, as well as the coordinator of the national strategy for rural women's and girls' empowerment and currently is the president of the Water Group for Agriculture Development, presented examples of women’s experiences in water management. Ms. Anouar Mnasri, a human rights and women’s rights specialist and judge, raised the issue of human rights and addressed the legal perspective of women’s access to water in rural areas. Ms. Awatef Mabrouk, GWP- Med’s Senior Gender Advisor, spoke about the scope of gender and climate change mainstreaming in water policies, as well as the need for a paradigm shift.
During the panel sessions, members of the AIP WACDEP-G working group as well as key stakeholders from Beja discussed the intersection of institutional leaders' points of view and perspectives. The first panel comprised Mrs. Nassira Meddouri representing the Regional Commissariat for Agricultural Development in Beja, Mrs. Najla Khalfoun representing the General Directorate of Water Resources, and Mrs. Narjess Hamrouni representing the Rural Women's Support Office and the main theme of the discussion was gender intersectoralities and collaboration in the water sector.
The second panel focused on Gender mobilisation and investment perspectives in the water sector and comprised Mr. Abdelhak Jerbi representing the Regional Commissariat for Agricultural Development in Beja, Mrs. Aida Jridi representing the General Directorate of Rural Engineering and Water Exploitation and Mrs. Sana Smida representing the General Directorate for Financing Investments and Professional Organizations.
Key takeaway messages
Participants addressed the connecting aspects of gender, water, and climate change, as well as gender integration in various policies, thus meeting the Workshop’s objectives. It was widely acknowledged that water is becoming one of the most important social challenges due to mismanagement, global warming, climate change and overexploitation, at both the national and the local level. It was further agreed that it is becoming increasingly difficult for women to secure their right to water in practice, a right that has been established by the 2014 Tunisian Constitution, as well as relevant Conventions and international treaties that Tunisia has ratified. Women’s problems in accessing drinking water in rural or semi-rural regions were also discussed. At the household level, women are primarily responsible for ensuring the availability of water for hygiene and drinking due to culture, traditions and prevailing mentalities. This is a very challenging task, which requires long hours. Participants were unanimous in their commitment to advancing gender equality and redressing inequalities that disproportionately affect Tunisian women.
Statements from the attendees:
H.E Mr Mohsen Moez Mili, Governor of Beja
This workshop is very important because it addresses two related issues: water and gender equality in water-related disciplines. Women play a key role in several water-related activities, particularly in water management, which is critical to all civilisations and may even lead to war. Undoubtedly, women are an important part of the value chain, but they are also the weakest link, unable to fully exercise their rights andbenefit from the same opportunities as men, as a result of the exploitation and distribution of water, mainly potable water but also irrigation water and water storage.
Mr Raouf Jaziri, Regional Agricultural Development Commissioner in Beja
This pilot project launch workshop in Beja, which is being organised in the framework of the AIP WACDEP-G project, is taking place on the side-lines of World Water Day. It is an excellent opportunity to discuss the significance of women's participation in decision-making processes in water-related investment projects and in water resources management in order to ensure water security and climate-resilient development.
Mrs Najla Khalfoun, Representing the General Directorate of Water Resources of the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries
As a member of the AIP WACDEP-G project working group, I believe that gender equality and women's empowerment promote sustainable development. To succeed in integrating women, decision-makers, managers, and legislators must implement laws that promote the interconnectivity of key institutions in the water sector. The gender dimension must be integrated into all levels of implementation, namely planning, implementing, evaluating and monitoring, through the introduction of measures that can eradicate prejudices and sexist constraints, even in programs that don’t necessarily promote gender equality, in order to eventually instil the gender dimension in those too.
The AIP WACDEP-G support program constitutes the continuity of the WACDEP program (2012-2019) which had Tunisia and the North Western Sahara Aquifer System among the beneficiary countries and basins. It builds on the findings of WACDEP, while placing emphasis on the gender dimension, aiming to ensure that the preparation, development, design, governance, and management of ongoing and new climate resilient water infrastructure investments, institutions, and job creation interventions strategically advance gender equality. The overall objective is to transform gender inequalities at scale by promoting gender-transformative planning, decision-making and institutional development for climate resilient water investments in Africa. AIP WACDEP-G is implemented under the leadership of the General Directorate of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries, Republic of Tunisia, while the first three years of implementation (2020-2022) are supported financially by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).
 Ecole Supérieure d'Ingénieurs de Medjez el-Bab (ESIM)
 Groupements de Développement Agricoles (GDA) d'Eau
 Commissariat Régional au Développement Agricole de Béja (CRDA)
 Commissaire Régional au Développement Agricole de Béja