Commitment to advance a Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Orange-Senqu River Basin
The Orange-Senqu River Basin Commission (ORASECOM) was established in 2000 by the State Parties of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa to promote the equitable and sustainable development of water resources in the Orange-Senqu River Basin. Its main mandate is to provide a forum for consultation and coordination between State Parties such that the integrated management of water resources is promoted and jointly implemented within the basin.
As part of its mandate, ORASECOM is currently implementing a 10-year basin-wide Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Plan, 2015-2024. The vision of the IWRM Plan is “A well-managed water secure basin with prosperous inhabitants living in harmony in a healthy environment.” The plan provides a framework for sustainable development and management of the water resources, considering the need for improved distribution and equitable allocation of benefits, to contribute towards socio-economic upliftment of communities within the basin, and ensure future water security for the basin States, and as a contribution to regional economic integration espoused by the SADC Treaty.
On 8 March 2022, representatives of the Orange-Senqu River Commission (Secretariat and member states) participated in the International Women’s Day event organized by the Women in Water Diplomacy Network. Participation in the event enabled sharing experiences from the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile and provided opportunities for inputs into the development of the Women in Water Diplomacy Nile and Beyond Global Strategy 2022 – 2027. ORASECOM representatives took a strong interest in this initiative and participants were motivated to establish a Women in Water Diplomacy Network for the Orange-Senqu River Basin. Thereafter, the ORASECOM secretariat, with support from SIWI, drafted a concept note to guide its context-specific process in an effective and inclusive manner. An initial meeting was held on 14 April 2022 to discuss the draft framework.
On 28 June 2022, ORASECOM held a second consultation in which representatives of the Leadership Council and Network Process Support Team were invited to share experiences and lessons learnt from the establishment of the Network in the Nile and Central Asia and Afghanistan. To further sharpen their tools and join the global Network, ORASECOM women commissioners were invited to the Global Network Forum at the World Water Week in Stockholm from 27 Aug to 1 Sept 2022. There, they were able to broaden their network as well as learn from, and share their experiences around, women’s leadership in water diplomacy.
In a special announcement during the Women in Water Diplomacy Network’s Global Strategy Launch event at the World Water Week, Commissioner Bogadi Mathangwane of the Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM, representing Botswana) was pleased to announce ORASECOM’s plan to be part of the inspiring, passionate team of women that make up the Women in Water Diplomacy Network. She further endorsed the importance of this platform to the attention of the many who value water and its’s potential to provide important input opportunities to the 2023 to UN Water Conference. Through her voice, ORASECOM pledged to support the Global Strategy and its objectives that emphasise peace and security.
Following the Global Network Forum, a 3rd Consultation Meeting was held on 24 October 2022 to further refine the framework and develop an action plan that would be submitted to the ORASECOM Council. The Orange-Senqu River Basin Network is expected to support implementation of ongoing initiatives under the gender strategy.
With a little help from our friends: Learning and Engaging with the World Bank’s Equal Aqua Platform
While the Women in Water Diplomacy Network remains focused on the intersectional themes of the women, water, peace and security – learning and exchanging with other Networks and women-led communities in the water sector and beyond is critical to the Network’s resilience. During the last year, Network representatives have had the opportunity to exchange with and learn from Equa Aqua network representatives and share experience as part of key events. With a focus on women in water utilities related fields there is great opportunity in ongoing experience exchange opportunities!
Women are underrepresented in water institutions, agencies, and utilities. They are recruited at lower rates, face hurdles in retention, and have fewer opportunities to advance in their careers. The lack of gender diversity negatively impacts company performance, decision-making, and innovative practices. The World Bank launched the Equal Aqua (EA) Platform to address this challenge. EA connects utilities, associations, representatives from the private sector, academia, and local and international organizations. By convening the most influential and relevant institutions and consolidating knowledge on gender inclusion in water institutions, EA fosters economies of scale for effective action. The EA network of 19 partners features regular knowledge exchanges, training opportunities, and capacity building for translating best practices into action. For this, an EA framework offers a practical and well-defined roadmap for gender inclusion that can be applied by water institutions regardless of their size and scope of work.
EA also compiles and aggregates gender-related data from water institutions across the globe and hosts its largest database, allowing for comparison across different institutions, countries, and regions, informing decision-making that can lead to behavior change for more targeted, inclusive efforts.
To learn more about this, please reach out to Kamila Galeza and Fernando Armendaris.
Visit the website for more information about Equal Aqua and to access a suite of tools and resources, including a self-paced course on breaking barriers to female employment.