Invest in women: Accelerate progress for a water secure & peaceful future

A female Solomon Islands teacher sits in a classroom with her back to the blackboard and smiling at the camera


Today, on International Women's Day, we celebrate the women leading their communities towards a more equitable and sustainable future and the commitment of Water for Women partners across Asia and the Pacific who are actively fostering gender equality to support this generation of leaders, and in doing so, championing the next. 


Accelerating progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) - Water and sanitaton for all - and all SDGs, starts with advancing gender equality. This year's International Women's Day theme, ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’, reiterates this reality.

To mark International Women's Day, we celebrate the women community leaders and allies engaged in Water for Women projects throughout Asia and the Pacific who are accelerating gender equality through their work in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs, systems and services - each living examples of how investing in women benefits everyone

Water for Women partners are dedicated to empowering women at all levels within communities to create climate-resilient and inclusive water and WASH systems in the face of a changing climate. Whether as district leaders in rural Lao PDR, as water utility or sanitation entrepreneurs in Cambodia, water service managers in Papua New Guinea - to name but a few - women are driving local responses to climate change for sustainable water resources and WASH services.  


Water and climate change have always been women’s issues

By 2050, the United Nations predicts that climate change could push an additional 158 million women and girls into poverty. In Asia and the Pacific, climate change is already wreaking havoc on essential water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, with women and girls bearing the brunt. Despite facing disproportionate challenges due to inadequate access to water and WASH services, women’s voices are largely still left out of leadership and decision-making in water resources and WASH systems. 

But women hold often untapped local and traditional knowledges to help solve context-specific climate challenges.Women's empowerment is fundamental to climate-resilient water resources and WASH. Women can be powerful agents for accelerating change. Their participation in decision-making is essential to comprehensively understanding local needs, vulnerabilities, and opportunities. Communities with women leaders tend to be stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to face the challenges posed by climate change. Investing in women benefits everyone.


There are challenges ahead

There is still much work to be done and many challenges ahead. Historical and structural gender inequity negatively affects women’s leadership, undermining women’s ability to make decisions, advance solutions, and respond to the nexus of climate and water security in their communities. Women remain underrepresented in decision-making related to WASH and climate change at all levels, from local to international bodies.

The barriers to gender equality and women's empowerment are numerous and cannot be successfully addressed without including the whole community. Water for Women partners actively involve men and boys in community-building dialogues to transform traditional gendered divisions. The examples are varied and inspiring. In Cambodia, husbands are engaged in programs that empower women's entrepreneurship. In Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, WASH and awareness raising initiatives tackle gender-based violence, and in India, women-led water solutions support LGBTIQ+ advocacy and leadership. In every place where Water for Women projects are working with communities, partners are acvtively collaborating with communities to reframe and challenge harmful social norms that perpetuate inequality.


Equality needs allies

Empowering women as leaders does not disempower men. Accelerating gender equality relies on male allies and partners to transform negative gender relations and stereotypes collaboratively. Together, by enabling women's full participation, communities can achieve a safe and equitable future for all. Everyone has a role in advancing gender equality.

We need more women leaders in communities, governments, and the private sector, as technicians, managers, entrepreneurs, construction workers, and in every established, new and emerging sector. With the 2030 deadline for the SDGs in sight, the world must invest in women to accelerate progress on SDG6 and build a peaceful and fairer future for all.



Explore recent updates below



A Bhutanese woman is resting her elbow on the top of a stone and cement wall. She is facing towards a Bhutanese man who she is in a conversation with. He is a member of SNV’s Water for Women project team in Bhutan.

Building an equitable future: Women, water and climate-reslience in rural Bhutan

In rural Bhutan, women masons are challenging gender norms and driving the transformation for climate-resilient water, sanitation and hygiene in their communities. 



Ms Kreang Sreypich, the manager of a piped water supply company in rural Prey Veng Province, Cambodia, is showing two men through her water plant. She is wearing a bright pink jumper and pointing out aspects of the water filtration ponds from behind a blue railed fence.

Women leading resilient water solutions in rural Cambodia

Ms Kreang Sreypich, the manager of a water enterprise in rural Prey Veng province, is proudly part of a movement of entrepreneurs providing reliable and safe water access to some of Cambodia's most remote and poor households.



Australia’s Ambassador for Global Health, Dr Lucas de Toca, and Ata Vagi, Pari Village Water Service Manager, standing in front of a water kiosk in Pari Village. Dr de Toca is holding a mobile phone to video their conversation and they are both smiling looking towards the camera. A raised water tank can be seen beside the water kiosk building in the background and a woman is sitting at a table below it.

Meet Ata Vagi: Pari's pioneering water service manager

Ata Vagi is the Water Service Manager for Pari Village in Papua New Guinea, responsible for deivering an innovative water kiosk system that provides safe, affordable, and accessible water for her community.



Camari Koto (centre) and members of the WASH project research team in Vanuatu standing together for a group photo in Manples informal settlement. Camari is wearing a bright blue and yellow dress and everyone is smiling at the camera.

From Suva to Port Vila: Researcher exchanges accelerating SDG6 progress in Melanesian Pacific

'South-south' researcher exchanges are an important part of the International WaterCentre's Water for Women research project in Melanesian Pacific, contributing to local researcher capacity building, which is critical for locally led research to grow and thrive, and to inform policies and programs for progress on SDG6. 



Ms Khanthaly Sangaloun is sitting with other women and beside a man on floor mats in a covered community meeting area in Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR. She is holding up an A4 page and pointing to emoji graphics on it while speaking to the group, who are looking on intently. She is explaining the climate vulnerability assessment process.

Women leading disaster risk responses in Lao PDR

District leader Ms Khanthaly Sangaloun is working to prepare her community for the impacts of climate change through a district Disaster Response Committee, a taskforce that places her at the forefront of local climate emergency responses.



Girl students in a schoolyard in Peshawar, Pakistan, standing in a group with their arms raised in unity facing the camera. They are wearing white dupatta (head scarves) and shalwar (pants) and blue kameez (tunics).

Wasting less, recycling more: Girls behind a green transformation in Pakistan

In rural schools in Pakistan, a transformation is taking place as school WASH clubs transition into Green Clubs, empowering students - and in particular, girls - to drive climate resilience in their schools, households, and communities.



As we mark International Women's Day on 8th March 2024, advancing gender equality is more crucial than ever.

Throughout the world, women are at the frontlines of climate change and it’s impacts on water security. With primary responsibility for meeting caregiving and household water needs, including for sanitation and hygiene (WASH) purposes, women are water and WASH experts in their communities.

Investing in women benefits everyone. Women hold often untapped local and traditional knowledge that can help solve context-specific climate challenges and strengthen community resilience. Communities with women leaders tend to be stronger, more resilient, more equitable, and better equipped to face the challenges posed by climate change. Yet women remain underrepresented in decision-making about water, WASH, and climate change at all levels - from local to international bodies. 

With the 2030 deadline on the Sustainable Development Goals in sight, we must mobilse the diverse experiences and wisdom of women and for a safe, just, and climate-resilient future. We must invest in women to accelerate progress on SDG6 and build a peaceful and fairer future for all.


Header photo: A teacher in Marara, Western Guadalcanal, is part of the transformation for equitable water and WASH in schools and households in Solomon Islands (Plan International and Live & Learn Environmental Education in Solomon Islands)

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