Water for Women celebrates IWD


If women see other women taking the lead then they will have the courage to speak 


Ms Winnie Sagiu is a Water Leader. Winnie was engaged by WaterAid to be part of their Water for Women project in early 2018 and has been deeply involved in many aspects of the project since then. Winnie is shining example of the value of women’s contribution to WASH delivery and beyond, her leadership and community engagement skills, knowledge on WASH and government systems, and her confidence and passion for her work has made her a reliable and valuable member of the team and a great leader. Winnie sets an important example to others in the organisation and the communities in which she works.


“I want to encourage women and children because they benefit the most (from WASH)… if women see other women taking the lead then they will have the courage to speak. If they don’t see other women stepping forward, then they feel hesitant. This is especially true for women in rural communities.”


Winnie is one of only two female Environmental Health Officers in the entire East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Being one of only a few women in her field of work, Winnie says her motivation for being involved in the program is to inspire and encourage more women to take the lead and participate in decision-making.


In Papua New Guinea, this is not a common occurrence. In fact baseline work conducted by WaterAid (which Winnie helped coordinate) as part of the Water for Women project found that women are underrepresented in community decision making processes, with only 10% (and in some areas as low as 2%) of the people who influence decisions at a community level being female, and yet the role women play in day-to-day life in PNG communities is central. This lack of women’s participation can be seen at all decision making levels in Papua New Guinea. At a national level, PNG is one out of only three countries in the world with no women in parliament. We must change this.


Australia supports gender equality and women's empowerment in delivering water for development initiatives across the Indo-Pacific, our approach also supports building resilient communities in the face of increased risk from the impacts of climate change.


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


The increasing frequency of floods, droughts and cyclones across the Indo-Pacific is playing havoc with waterways and crops, affecting the food security and livelihoods of millions of people.  Women and marginalised people are the most vulnerable to these climate change impacts, and are therefore in strong positions to contribute to sustainable solutions to these challenges. Resilience in communities is only possible when there is equality and cohesion.


Gender equality and social inclusion is central to Water for Women’s approach because actively involving all people within communities ensures more equitable and inclusive processes, which lead to more effective and sustainable outcomes in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).


Recognising the barriers and constraints faced by women in PNG, WaterAid’s project, Inclusive WASH for Wewak has taken a systems strengthening approach to develop an inclusive and empowering WASH sector by working closely with and building female leadership within the sector. 


Winnie’s impressive list of involvement includes: co-chairing the District WASH Coordination Body quarterly meetings; coordinating fieldwork for the district WASH baseline; and co-facilitating the rollout of the Healthy behaviour change program.


An equal world is an enabled world. If this is what just one woman can achieve, imagine what is possible in a gender equal world.


Photo by Harjono Djoyobisono / AVI


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