Story | 07 Mar, 2022

International Women's Day: Breaking the bias

A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination is the theme of this year's International Women's Day (8 March). A much needed call for attention everywhere, but also in particular in the water management sector, and more specifically in transboundary waters.

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Photo: ©Shutterstock/Marchan

IUCN partnered with the Geneva Graduate Institute on establishing links between a gender responsive approach, transboundary water cooperation and blue peace, based on the IUCN Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE) project work. 

The research titled 'Towards an Intersectional Blue Peace - Gender in Shared Waters', focused on practical recommendations based on findings collected from interviews with experts, academics and policy-makers.

Our project seeks to go beyond simply counting women in, but rather we propose the use of an intersectional and gender-transformative framework as the most effective way of governing transboundary waters”, explained the research students. 

The recommendations suggest a simultaneous top-down and bottom-up approach, including:

  • establishing an inclusive intersectional participatory mechanism;
  • ensuring participatory platforms serve the interests of minority groups;
  • reforming current frameworks to be more accessible to vulnerable communities;
  • advocating for financial support that ensures long-term commitments;
  • investing in critical analysis of gender-aggregated data;
  • reshaping the language used to talk about gender and women 

Blue Peace is a global movement that highlights initiatives on water, peace, security and cooperation. The movement gathers numerous actions undertaken by different actors (academia, culture, political and diplomatic actions, civil society and the private sector) and at different levels (from local to global).The Blue Peace movement is an initiative supported by the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs.

The gender in transboundary basins research was conducted by master students Aloïs Aguettant, Mathilde Bolduc, Samantha Elaine Groulx and Jungsoo Lee, as part of the Applied Research Capstone scheme. The scheme brings together groups of students from the Geneva Graduate Institute with partners from diverse sectors of International Geneva to conduct innovative research that addresses global challenges, including women's rights and equality.

International Women's Day has occurred for over a century with the first gathering held in 1911. The day belongs to all groups collectively and globally. According to the World Economic Forum, gender parity will not be attained for almost a century. “There is urgent work to be done and we can all play a part. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists is not enough, action is needed to level the playing field”, said Claire Warmenbol, IUCN Communications and Partnership Manager for the IUCN Water and Land Management Team.

On 8 March, the IUCN Human Rights in Conservation Team also produced a visual story 'Celebrating Strides: Towards a Culture of Gender Responsiveness in Climate Action', drawing attention to the women and girls, who are among the most marginalised and impacted as they are often left out of policies, solutions and practices, despite the crucial knowledge and experience they contribute. Yet, there is also progress and strides to mark and celebrate.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive, where difference is valued and respected, is a key tenet of International Women's Day, collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.