Water policies: UNESCO urges gender perspective in West Africa


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The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has advised West African countries to take into consideration gender perspective in formulating their national water policies.

Mr Lamine Sow, Acting Director, UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja made the call at an Online Advocacy which focused on “Water and Climate Change: Women’s Coping Strategies in West Africa.’’

The event was jointly organised by UNESCO Multi-Sectoral Regional Office Abuja, World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), Perugia, Italy and Regional Centre for Integrated River Basin Management, (RC-IRBM) Kaduna.

Sow said that water and climate change affect all facets of life including, gender equality, food security, livelihood, preservation of the ecosystem as well as growth and development of societies.

He said that it was important that women were involved in the policymaking process pertaining to water supply because they were those mainly affected by its unavailability.

Sow pointed out that the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six which focused on achieving clean water and sanitation for all should not exclude women.

“Water resources are important in achieving SDG six and reports have shown that acceptable quality water still remains a challenge, with the visible impact of climate change in Africa which manifests as deforestation, flooding, drought, erosion, etc.

“Unfortunately, women are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change because of their close connection to the environment and dependence on natural resources.

“We need to consider the gender perspective in national planning purposes, especially for water and climate variability adaptation policies.

“For such policies, there is a requirement for collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated water data to support develop a gender baseline and for monitoring gender equality problems,’’ he said.

According to him, reports have shown that in sub-Saharan Africa, 37 per cent of the population spends 30 minutes or more to locate safe drinking water, water for livestock and other purposes.

He said that UNESCO was assisting member states to develop evidence-based data for policy formulation.

Sow added that the organisation had produced a sex-disaggregated data to help member states formulate policies that will eliminate adaptive measures that discriminate against gender responsiveness.

He, however, hoped that the webinar would proffer ideas on ways to address issues of climate change and help women cope better.

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The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, while declaring the online event open said reliable data was key to proper planning.

“With the population of Nigeria moving over 200 million as documented in 2019 and as it is expected to double by 2050, there is need to address issues of climate change that have affected our livelihood,” Adamu said.

According to him, addressing issues of water resources and climate change cannot exclude women because they are always affected due to the roles they play in the family.

“It is important that women are involved in climate change adaptation strategies because they are readily affected by water scarcity and flooding.

“We need to ensure women are well represented in water governance bodies to mitigate the challenges they face,’’ he said.

The minister said the programme would help stakeholders understand climate change, water and women nexus for better planning.

Mr Abou Amani, UNESCO Director, Water Division of Natural Science, said that climate change projection by International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly identified West Africa as a hot spot.

Amani said that COVID-19 challenges had reminded countries on the need to address the need for clean water, sanitation and to make a massive investment on water combined with human capacity development.

According to him, these are needed to facilitate the implementation of SDG six and we need to empower women to be part of water resources management initiatives.

He added that the UNESCO regional office and WWAP collaborated to launch a capacity development programme for West Africa to highlight specific roles women play, challenges and how coping strategies contribute to achieving SDG six.

He said that the programme would disclose how water gender data can culminate into transformative water policies for West Africa.

Mr Lansana Wonneh, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women, said women should be included in formulating water policies because they have local knowledge on how decisions could affect their livelihood.

Other stakeholders at the event included ECOWAS Commission on Water Resources Coordinating Centre and African Ministers Council on Water for West Africa, with contributions on water, climate change and gender in the region.

UNESCO’s WWAP Toolkit on Sex-Disaggregated Water Data 2015 and 2019 was introduced as a tool to help member states make informed decisions on water resources.

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