IUCN and Oxfam collaborate to enhance gender integration in the lower Mekong

Gender integration in water governance policies received a boost in the Lower Mekong Region through a recent workshop co-organised by Oxfam and IUCN. Held from July 11 to 12 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the workshop provided a platform for knowledge-sharing and dialogue for over 50 representatives from government and civil society organisations (CSOs) across Cambodia, Viet Nam, Myanmar and Lao PDR.  

Participants at the Oxfam IUCN Gender and Women’s Leadership in Water Governance workshop

Through a series of presentations, interactive demonstrations and creative brainstorming sessions, the ‘Oxfam IUCN Gender and Women’s Leadership in Water Governance' workshop developed leadership and capacity for gender integration in water governance, and encouraged participants to share experiences on gender analysis and women’s leadership development at the grassroots level. 

“I think we do need individual women leaders to show or lead the way for other women. The development of women’s leadership will bring the voices of women to policy level and high level platforms. This is very important,” says Raphael Glemet, Senior Programme Officer, IUCN Asia Regional Office

Taking centre stage at the workshop were ‘Market Place’ sessions which enabled CSOs and individuals to showcase their work and experiences supporting women’s inclusion and leadership development in water governance. A case study video of Dary Thanh, a young community leader supported by the Oxfam Inclusion project, was a highlight as it showcased the role various communication channels like radio and theatre play in raising awareness about resource governance and safeguarding the rights of indigenous peoples.   

IUCN’s BRIDGE programme’s Vishwaranjan Sinha presented the outcomes of the BRIDGE CSO Forum which took place in December 2015. The forum provided a better understanding of what the 3S IWRM (Integrated Water Resource Management) strategy should focus on. During the gender workshop, participants shared their views on how the strategy could be more gender sensitive and responsive. They also emphasised the importance of involving gender champions, women organisations and relevant government agencies in the strategy’s consultation process. 

IUCN Global Water Programme’s Isabelle Fauconnier presented IUCN’s principles on gender integration, as well as the Environment and Gender Index (EGI). Developed by the IUCN Global Gender Office, the EGI is the first global tool that brings together gender and environment variables, allowing for easy monitoring of progress toward gender equality in the environmental arena.

IUCN Asia’s flagship initiative Mangroves for the Future also played a supporting role in the workshop by explaining how the MFF Small Grant Facility (SGF) programme has contributed to women’s empowerment in coastal resource dependent communities. 

The workshop concluded with the identification of concrete steps to take moving forward and the key considerations in mainstreaming gender in water governance in the Lower Mekong Basin. In summary, participants came to a consensus that there was a need for a regional networking platform that focuses on the issue of gender integration. The following recommendations were made on how international organisations like IUCN and Oxfam can contribute to this:

  • Mapping existing regional platforms such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) including their mandates and gender responsive work across sectors. 
  • Integrating common mandates by identifying the support mechanisms within these regional platforms (e.g. technical support, knowledge exchange, data gathering etc) for better impact at regional and national level. 
  • Working with regional and national research organisations and data repositories; facilitate sharing of data and development of data collection tools that are more gender sensitive. 

Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE) is an IUCN initiative that focuses on enhancing water governance capacities in nine trans-boundary basins in three regions across the globe. Through approaches that emphasise stakeholder learnings and consensus building, BRIDGE aims to catalyse transboundary cooperation for equitable and sustainable water resources development. BRIDGE is implemented by IUCN with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. In the Mekong region, BRIDGE activities are carried out in the Sekong, Sesan and Sre Pok river basins.

Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, and Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.

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