Posted Tuesday March 17, 2020
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Water and Climate Change: Women have a role to play

Water for Women Fund Manager, Dr Alison Baker and Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist, Joanna Mott reflect on the vital role of women and a new approach required to address the great challenge of climate change and resilience in the WASH sector.

 

Water. A most precious resource. From water flows life.

We all need water to survive, as do all the systems we rely on: sanitation, healthcare, education, business, agriculture and industry. Around the world, extreme weather events are making water more scarce, more unpredictable, more polluted, or all three.

There is no doubt that climate change is a critical global concern.  Many countries around the world are being increasingly impacted by drought, flooding, intense storms, changing temperatures and rising sea levels.

Water plays a fundamental role in healthy communities and families, and water security is intrinsically linked to a changing climate.

Today, 1 in 3 people – around 2.2 billion – live without safe drinking water. We must use water more equitably. We must balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring the most vulnerable don’t get left behind.

Both governments and communities are seeking ways to adapt and increase their capacity to both respond to disasters and build their resilience to climate impacts, both immediate shocks and slow onset change. 

Responding practically to extreme events and long-term impacts of climate change requires communities, governments, institutions and development partners to access tailored information that enables sound decision-making regarding water resources and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services at local and systems levels.

 

But this is where things can become more complicated.

The issue of climate change and its interface with other sectors is complex. Climate Change is a cross-sectoral issue and one of growing concern both immediately and more long term, so we must find workable, sustainable and effective ways to address it and the need to do this is urgent.

Those working to find ways to respond to climate change impacts are often met with fragmented and complicated government and decision-making structures. 

 

So how can we overcome these complex barriers?

Emerging thinking is that responses to climate change needs to be addressed from an overall development perspective, rather than focusing on individual sector processes and planning with an added climate change lens. We need to work more closely and collaboratively with other areas of development to find better ways of implementing, because in reality, all of our effort culminates in outcomes for communities that are connected - connected by their need for water, sanitation, food security, health, education and livelihood opportunities.

At the community level, people are dealing directly with climate change impacts on a daily basis. So at this level, if everything is at risk from climate change, our interventions should be designed in view of everything - all the systems that community relies on to survive and thrive.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and Water Resource Management (WRM) are inextricably linked, and we know that both of these sectors can be greatly strengthened by approaches that focus on gender equality and social inclusion.

 

Why?

Women and marginalised people are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, but they also hold great potential to contribute to better solutions for their community, particularly when armed with accurate, tailored climate information.

Practical inclusion strategies in WASH and WRM are vital to building community resilience to climate change, recognising that the knowledge and capacities of all people, including women and people with a disability, are critical to this process to ensure that we leave no one behind.

With the support and leadership of Governments, communities across Asia and the Pacific must build their resilience to the impacts of climate change, which otherwise compromises access to secure water and sanitation services. Understanding exists about the gendered and social dimensions of climate change impacts, so now, more than ever, practical strategies are required to support communities to be more equitable, inclusive, adaptive—and hence resilient—to climate change challenges.

 

 Photo: children fetch the water from the water tap located at the end of the settlement and take to their Households in India (CFAR / India)

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