Water for Women at World Water Week

Three people presenting virtually via a mounted smart phone in video camera mode

The 2021 Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) World Water Week transcended borders from 23-27 August to present an intensive week of virtual learning and collaboration on the theme, Building Resilience Faster, with 13,000 participants from 188 countries dialling in throughout the week. 

Water for Women was represented in five different sessions, and during the week, launched three new learning resources and an inspiring video series to foster gender equality and social inclusion and promote transformative leadership in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and water resource management.

The session files and chats are now available to view on the World Water Week event website, and the video recordings can be found below.


Leading for Leaving No One Behind: It's time to reset!  

A women presenting a clear glass of water to children seated in front of her

Now, more than ever, the world relies on transformative leaders to drive the COVID-19 response and recovery. This session focused on how can we better enable transformative leadership in the water governance and WASH sectors to ensure more inclusive and equitable systems, structures and services.

Convenors and participants engaged in open discussions on all facets of transformative leadership and explored how to better support leaders to be more transformative in programming, research or policy-making to tackle challenges - like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change - head-on.

During the Leading for Leaving No One Behind: it's time to reset! session - which was held twice, on Monday 23 and Thursday 26 August - a "transformative trio" of new Water for Women Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) resources were launched:

  1. The GESI Self-Assessment Tool, co-created with the Sanitation Learning Hub, is a facilitation guide for WASH project managers, researchers and self-assessment facilitators to support individual and collective reflective practice on GESI in projects and organisations;
  2. Water for Women partners the Institute for Sustainable Futures - University of Technology (ISF-UTS) and SNV Netherlands Organisation collaborated on a study of Gender Transformative Leadership During the Covid-19 Pandemic to produce a research report and learning brief, which are accompanied by a series of six short videos featuring transformative leaders from Asia; and
  3. ISF-UTS also developed qualKit - a web-based toolkit of qualitative GESI monitoring, measurement and evaluation resources curated for travel-restricted times to ensure quality project reporting. 

The Leading for Leaving No One Behind session was also one of 10 selected by the Netherlands Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SIWI to be captured in an illustration by Cunera Joosten, and was separately featured in a blog by young rapporteur, Thuli Montana.


An illustration of the key take learnings from the Leading for Leaving No One Behind session


View Monday session


Inclusive Communities are more Climate Resilient: Fact or Fiction?

Adults sitting together on a mat drawing plans on a large piece of paperHow can we better use a gender and social inclusion lens to build more inclusive and equitable communities with strengthened capacity for cohesion and resilience? Why does this matter?

This session explored these questions and engaged participants and convenors in discussions on a range of targeted strategies to improve inclusion and equality within community water governance and WASH decision-making, to build cohesion and resilience in communities.

The session included screening of the Community-Based Water Security Improvement in Solomon Islands video from Water for Women partners International WaterCentre (IWC) and Plan International, in partnership with Live and Learn Environmental Education and Solomon Islands National University (SINU).

The session was held twice - on Tuesday 24 and Thursday 26 August.


Resilient WASH in Schools: Transformative Work for Transformative Times? 

A young girl with soapy hands using her elbow to turn a tap off on a water container
This session - held on Wednesday 25 August - explored how can WASH in schools programs contribute to social norms change and gender transformation, as essential foundations for building community resilience.

Transformative WASH in schools programs enable equitable access to education, hence supporting the next generations of diverse leaders to shape their communities. Critical components to achieve this were examined, including designing menstrual hygiene friendly and disability accessible WASH facilities, and supporting social norms change through stigma free and inclusive hygiene behaviour change.

The session included an excursion to some Pacific Islands schools via a video screening, which featured interviews with Live and Learn Environmental Education and Plan International project leaders and school leaders, sharing positive WASH in Schools project outcomes.


Gender Transformative Leadership in WASH: Voices from Asia

Two women smiling and presenting to a group

During the Gender Transformative Leadership in WASH: Voices from Asia session - held on Tuesday 24 August - six videos featuring diverse and inspirational WASH leaders who are transforming inequalities in their COVID-19 responses were premiered.  

Part of the research partnership on Gender Transformative Leadership During Covid-19 between SNV in Bhutan, Nepal and Lao PDR and the Institute for Sustainable Futures - University of Technology Sydney, through the videos, the leaders also share strategies that can be applied across a wide range of WASH-COVID programming to support transformative leadership, and to find new entry points for strengthening gender equality and inclusion. 

View session


Shaping the 'New Normal': Crisis-resilient Tourism via Socially Inclusive WASH

Illustration of women and girl washing hands at a basin with running tap and wearing face masks

The tourism industry is being significantly impacted by COVID-19 and climate change. This session explored how resilient, safe, healthy destinations can develop through industry leadership in water stewardship, improved WASH for staff, local communities and socially vulnerable groups, and the collaborative action of hotel operators, government and communities.

Tourism is a sophisticated actor in opening new areas to development, and often without sufficient focus on equity and sustainability. The tourism industry's critical social and environmental role in water stewardship was examined, including evidence for and actions to implement behavioural change, to maintain ensure personal safety and the health of staff and their families in local communities.

Held on Monday 23 and Wednesday 25 August, the session focused on gender, disability and social inclusion, and included a virtual field trip to Mandalika in Lombok. 

View session


Thank you to all Water for Women partners, session co-convenors and participants who joined us at World Water Week, and to the Stockholm International Water Institute, for a highly engaging and inspiring program again this year. Explore the recordings of the more than 400 sessions curated by SIWI and convened by other world-leading organisations on the World Water Week event website to learn more and continue the conversations.


Photographs courtesy of: SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, Jeremy Kohlitz, Institute of Sustainable Futures - University of Technology, Sydney, Plan International Australia and Live & Learn Environmental Education, Aidan Dockery, SNV Bhutan. Illustration by Adrian Ariatin.

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