Guest post by Julia Collins
Accessing and managing one of the most basic, and yet most crucial, life-sustaining resources is a big deal. Today, on World Water Day, we take a moment to consider what a large role water plays in security, development and conflict around the world and how crucial women are to this important resource.
You name it, water affects it: gender, health, security, poverty, sanitation, hygiene, policy.
The Elliott School of International Affair’s interdepartmental project ‘Women and Water in South and Central Asia’ has identified 4 challenges related to water that women face in South and Central Asia.
First, the domestic use of water is generally viewed as women’s concern in the region and the physically demanding task of water collection and water management in the household falls to women and girls. Because of this household water responsibility, women’s health is adversely affected by the physical strain of water carrying, water-borne diseases and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions. Further complicating the issue, the water supply is projected to decrease due to climate change, which will likely exacerbate tensions and fuel conflict. Lastly, and despite their integral involvement in all things water, women do not often hold water/property rights nor do they have decision making power to distribute or manage water. This results in a decision-making gap where preferences of women and girls aren’t considered in allocating the precious resource.
What can be done?
Treating women as partners, not passive recipients of aid is a start. The idea is to empower women to work together with men on water decision making and planning. It is also important to tailor women-empowerment programs to fit the local needs of the community because ‘one-size’ does not fit all.
Find out more
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More about the project
The Global Gender Program, Sigur Center, and Central Asia Program’s joint project – Women and Water in South and Central Asia – brings together women social entrepreneurs and activists from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, to discuss their experiences and innovative solutions on community-level water management, enhance their competencies and leadership skills, and expose them to U.S institutions and the policy community working on water management and gender issues. This project, funded by the State Department, will support Track II diplomacy (people-to-people relations) and enhance capacity on water resource management as a key element in enhancing stability and prosperity in Central and South Asia.
Julia Collins is a Research/Program Assistant for the Women and Water, South and Central Asia Project at the Elliott School and a 1st year Master’s Candidate studying Conflict Resolution and Security Policy Studies. Particular areas of academic interest include Post-conflict reconstruction, memory politics and dealing with the past, and promoting good governance in transitional democracies – Myanmar in particular.
She graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a BA in Political Science, and minors in Environmental Geography and German. Julia has worked on Guam, lived in Hungary, taught along the Thailand-Myanmar border at a political training school for Burmese democracy activists, and advocated for refugees at a Californian refugee resettlement agency.