Blog.Mar 08, 2024

Depicting the collective energy of water women

On International Women’s Day, SIWI celebrates the work of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network by highlighting the critical role that women play in peace processes. A new illustration ‘You raise me up’ is dedicated to women working in the field of water. SIWI’s Radhika Gupta shares her inspiration and creative process.

Illustration by Radhika Gupta showing 4 women climbing a mountain with a flow of water surrounding the mountain - a colourful volcanic explosion at the top.'You raise me up', by Radhika Gupta

’You raise me up’ was launched this week at the second Women in Water Diplomacy Network Global Forum, held in Vienna, Austria. It is inspired by every woman of the Network, who I view as a collective.

Woman lifts a mountain on her shoulders

While envisioning Network, I had a different image in my head. I imagined a woman that lifts up a mountain on her shoulders, signifying the strength she carries in order to navigate the challenges women face, in progressing through their career in international spaces of water diplomacy. They often march forward to achieve goals that are important for society and sometimes her country as a whole.

But the true purpose of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network is for the women to share this burden of a mountain, by exchanging experiences, lessons and expertise that they draw from their regions.

She is not alone

This shared reality of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network of how every member supports one another, is well established in the

The Nile Network went above and beyond its original regional scope and since then, the Network has surged in many other basins. There are now Networks in Central Asia-Afghanistan, Southern Africa including the Zambezi, Orange-Senqu, Okavango, as well as shared basins across the Americas. Many more regions are also looking at joining this Global Network.

3 women - members of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network - standing in front of the banner showing the illustration "you raise me up".Network members carry out discussions around the illustration at the Global Network Forum in Vienna, Austria. Photo: SIWI

The illustration ‘You raise me up’ is a reminder of the collective power of women: no member of the Network is carrying the mountain on her shoulders alone anymore. Everyone is lifting each other up, to reach new heights by scaling the mountain itself.

Their collective energy is volcanic

Each woman offers her hand, to help another one to succeed and get to the top of the mountain. The one accepting the hand acknowledges to the other: “You raise me up” and offers her own, and so on. Together they create a force so immense that they bring water issues to light, depicted by the spiral wave of water that circles the mountain and exits out.

The burst of colours shows the volcanic energy with which the Network has expanded, and now spreading the same energy out into the universe.

Comparing the two illustrations

The illustration is starkly different from its first counterpart, created prior to the first Global Network Forum, held in Stockholm in 2022. ‘Women turning water to diamonds’ showcased Network member, Theresa Wasike’s warmth and vision of the Network.

The illustration portrays the first few Network members, when it all began with the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile. The women conduct peaceful dialogue about difficult issues that the region faces, while sitting across the Nile River. They elevate voices of other women, by having diplomatic discussions, because “water is a woman’s affair”, as quoted by Theresa Wasike.  Through this conversation, they turn water to diamonds, by realizing its true value, and the role that water plays in increasing gender equality.

‘You raise me up’ showcases the Network’s collective energy, and uses shades instead of flat colours, to add depth and a three-dimensional appearance to the mountain and upward movement of the water.

Illustration of several women seated across a river pouring from a cup held by a woman. On a starry night with a half moon, they are carrying diamonds and there is one who is with a basket of fruit.
‘Women turning water to diamonds’ by Radhika Gupta