Freshwater and Gender

by Anna Brismar, Stockholm, Sweden
The pressure on limited freshwater resources increases, to meet the escalating demands of households, municipalities and industry. Meanwhile, in the developing world, widespread inequalities exist between women and men regarding their respective opportunities to influence and participate in activities within their society and to benefit from its resources.

In order to suppress further deterioration of the present natural resource base and to relieve human poverty and suffering, the competence and expertise within each society need to be optimally utilised. This requires the right for both men and women to participate - on equal terms and to an equal extent - in societal activities. In addition, it demands the acknowledgement of the assets of both men and women, and consideration of their unique interests and needs. In this way, not only is the life quality of women and their families improved, but also the prospects of sustainable freshwater utilisation and management.

However, despite a growing gender awareness world-wide, the process of attaining gender equality within all areas of social life is only in its infancy. As part of this process, the author calls for an evaluation of the gender awareness of current freshwater policies, programmes and projects, whether local or regional. An extensive assessment of prevalent national and international policies, laws and practices, and societal attitudes is also proposed, with the aim of achieving a sustainable interaction between men, women and freshwater.