PROJECT: THE WOMEN IN WATER DIPLOMACY NETWORK IN THE NILEReport back: Nile engagement 2021

2021 was a transformative year for the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile with the launch of our new Leadership Council, the Nile and Beyond Strategy process.

Nile network townhall meeting on International Women’s Day

International Women's Day logo on purple backgroundMarch 2021

The Women in Water Diplomacy Nile Network kicked off 2021 with a Network Townhall meeting on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021 and the release of a second edition of the Network Newsletter (see March 2021 Network Newsletter). The International Women’s Day Network Townhall served as an opportunity to share updates, input into upcoming Network activities and meet the new members of the Network and SIWI support team. The Network was keen to continue the tradition of gathering together on this important day for the global community in years to come.

Webinar: Elevating young women water diplomats

Illustration of a black silhouette, with a speach bubble on a green backgroundApril 2021

On April 6, 2021, SIWI’s International Centre for Water Cooperation hosted a webinar together with the release of a new study ‘Making waves: Youth engagement in water diplomacy’ by Viktor Sundman, Isabelle Dadvar and Elizabeth A. Yaari and featuring young water diplomats engaged in a variety of water diplomacy processes in the Nile, the Middle East and Central Asia and Afghanistan including Yodit Balcha, Senior Climate Change Adaptation Advisor at the Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy in Ethiopia representing the Women in Water Diplomacy Network. This webinar explored the benefits and opportunities of inclusive transboundary governance with a focus on youth perspectives. Remarking on the key role of networking in professional development Yodit Balcha shared that the Women in Water Diplomacy Network ‘provides women with a space where we can learn and share experience about water governance and transboundary cooperation issues. It is very empowering to be of this Network.’

Nile network experience exchange with women mediators in partnership with CPM

 Webinar screenshot: Women in Water diplomacy network in the Nile - May 2021May 2021

In May 2021, members and representatives of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile were invited by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Centre for Peace Mediation (CPM) to engage in an experience exchange session with the CPM supported Finnish Water Diplomacy Network and the Finnish members of the Nordic Women Mediator Network. This activity was requested following the valuable exchange between the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile and the Nordic Women Mediator’s Network convened in December 2020 (see March 2020 Newsletter for details). The engagement and experience exchange with CPM enabled practical knowledge exchange around the intersect of water diplomacy, gender equality, and women’s leadership in decision making with a focus on fragile or conflict sensitive regions, elevating lessons learned and opportunities for engagement.

The meeting was attended by more than 40 participants including Finnish diplomats largely supporting Nile Basin states, Mekong Basin states and other fragile contexts including Afghanistan, as well as experts and development practitioners invited by CPM in addition to the representatives and members of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile. This event was envisioned as a starting point for ongoing experience exchange, dialogue, and collaboration with the Centre for Peace Mediation and other expert networks related to water diplomacy and mediation.

Reflecting on the experience exchange session, Network member Dr Muna Musnad, Water Chair, UNESCO shared: “To get ahead and to innovate in our work, professionals and experts need to be surrounded by a network of supporters for inspiration and sharing. This is an important value of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile Basin. We derive energy and support from each other since each member comes from different technical backgrounds, bringing different traditions, perspectives and social norms. This Network, from my perspective, offers social support and friendship, and provides opportunity of mutual benefits that can it in of itself be empowering.” Adding that, “opportunities to build long-term professional connections and strategic engagements with other regional and international networks such as Centre for Peace Mediation, the Nordic Women Mediators and Finnish Water Diplomacy Network, offers women water diplomacy professionals important support and confidence particular in the fields of negotiations, communications, and decision making, all of which contribute to career success.”

“This Network (...) offers social support and friendship, and provides opportunity of mutual benefits that can it in of itself be empowering.”

Dr Muna Musnad, Water Chair at UNESCO and network member

Capacity building and experience exchange: Communication resilience and third-party involvement

Webinar Screenshot - Women in Water diplomacy network in the Nile - June 2021June 2021

The Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile convened two back-to-back online experience exchange and joint learning opportunities for the members and supporters. The events were designed to respond to specific requests from Network’s members for advanced training and discussion on key themes in water diplomacy including disinformation, information influence and communication resilience; and third-party involvement in water diplomacy processes respectively.  Both days were attended by approximately 20 Network members including participating representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Rwanda, including several first-time participants. Additionally, the online workshop sessions were joined by leading experts, diplomats, and former and current officials including representatives from Eswatini, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Finland, Austria, and Sweden.

The workshop also, for the first time in the activities of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile, intentionally engaged several male experts in the workshop as part of the Network’s strategy to target the engagement of gender equality and women’s leadership male champions in the activities of the Network. Each day of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network Workshop series was designed to make space for informal dialogue and discussion amongst participants, advance network activities and engagements, elevate a key idea or topic, engage in two-way learning around the idea or topic, and assess joint learning through M&E.

Elevating gender equality and women’s leadership as part of journalistic excellence in the Nile Basin at the 2021 Nile Media Awards

Screenshot of the online ceremony of the Woman journalist Award - July 2021July 2021

Drawing in large part on SIWI’s experience in supporting the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile since 2017 as well as the SWP supported Eastern Nile Journalist Network, SIWI’s Elizabeth A. Yaari joined Kerry Schneider as part of the 2021 Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Jury for the 2021 Nile Media Awards – bringing focus to women’s leadership and gender equality in Nile regional journalism. To that aim, SIWI provided targeted support by supporting the new ‘Best Entry from a Female Journalist’ award and mainstreamed input through the development and inclusion of award criteria across all award categories which highlighted key aspects of gender equality in journalism with impacts on social recognition, status and power.

SIWI and all the partners of the Nile Media Awards were thrilled with the huge rise in submissions from female journalists covering key topics such as climate change impacts, oil politics, geopolitics, human security and public health. The final award ceremony was held in a hybrid configuration in Ethiopia. SIWI congratulates all of the winners – with a special congratulations to Egyptian journalist Rehab Abdalmohsen for her double award for both the Best Digital Entry and Best Entry from a Female Journalist ‘for her article entitled Ethiopia dam filling impact ‘limited’ – if no drought originally published in July 2020.

Women in Water Diplomacy strongly represented at the 2021 Cairo Water Week

October 2021

SIWI and the SIWI hosted UNESCO Category II International Centre for Water Cooperation (ICWC) were pleased to join the 2021 Cairo Water Week and share in promoting the numerous events showcasing members of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network at the October 2021 Cairo Water Week in person and online.

  • SIWI’s Dr Martina Klimes reflected on the Women in Water Diplomacy Network as part of Cairo Water Week’s Opening Plenary (watch the 2021 Opening plenary).
  • Network members Dr Karima Attia, Professor Emeritus at the Nile Research Institute and Former Director of the Water Resources Research Institute in Egypt shared her new research in the session ‘Impact of Increased Flash Flood Frequency and Their Corresponding Sedimentation on The Water Supply Intakes (See session recording);’
  • Dr Tahani Sileet, Head of the Central Department for External Cooperation in the Nile Water Sector, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in Egypt shared her experience and knowledge related to the Nile Basin wide VICMED project as part of the ‘VICMED Project Feasibility Study (Phase 2) Donors’ Round Table MWRI’ session (See session recording);
  • Dr Muna Musnad, UNESCO Water Chair at Omdurman Islamic University in Sudan and ICWC Board Member shared her research findings and recommendations in the SIWI co-convened session ‘Just Climate Adaptation for Resilience in Agriculture and Food Security in a Transboundary Perspective’ alongside SIWI’s Dr Mats Eriksson and Dr Martina Klimes (See session recording).

Watch 2021 Cairo Water Week opening session

(You need to accept cookies to see the video below. You can also watch it on YouTube)

Online skills building workshop: Elevating women water diplomacy in online professional networking platforms

October 2021

On October 20, 2021, SIWI convened a Network skills building workshop for the members of the Nile Network. This event was conceived as a follow-up to the advanced training and discussion held on disinformation, information influence and communication resilience in June 2021. Furthermore, the workshop responded to specific requests from Network members to be equipped to effectively engage on social media platforms with focus on LinkedIn for professional networking and knowledge exchange.

This Network event was made possible through the partnership and engagement of SIWI’s Communication experts Cécile Pillon Hue, Hawra Daoud, and Radhika Gupta who were able to provide tailored background and guidance on how Network members could utilize online professional networking sites to elevate and share their experience and expertise in water diplomacy.  The Skills Building session was attended by Network members including representatives from Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, as well as Network supporters from South Africa and Eswatini.

While this activity was original conceived to have particular appeal to the young professionals in the Network – the SIWI process support team was pleased with the broad turnout of some of our Network’s most senior representatives as well. This Women in Water Diplomacy Network Skills Building Workshop followed the SWP dialogue process design. Beginning with a half hour of informal discussion and check-ins for Network members; followed by Network announcements; information session; dialogues and experience exchange; and monitoring and evaluation.

Differing from most activities in the Women in Water Diplomacy Network engagement to date, this session was not held under the Chatham House Rule, and it was recorded to enable Network members who were unable to attend live due to schedule conflicts or the inability to stream live video due to data/energy restrictions to watch after the workshop. This pilot workshop was so well received that it was adapted for replication in the Central Asia and Afghanistan Network (see Reporting Back Central Asia and Afghanistan Section) as well as an internal training for all SIWI staff.

Launch of the new Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council

September 2021

In September 2021, SIWI launched the new Network Leadership Council initiative to increase efforts towards a co-design approach with Network members in strategy and engagement design, implementation, monitoring, and representation. Network members had the chance to comment on the Council’s concept and share feedback in a survey as well as informally in the Network WhatsApp group and in dialogues with SIWI. The initiative received strong support from the members in all feedbacks, and details regarding the size and composition of the Council were developed. The Members indicated in the consultation process a preference for a 2022 Council made up of 5-6 members from Nile Basin states and 1-2 members from outside the Basin, in addition to the SIWI support team.

Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council

Establishment of the new Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council

November 2021

Following an open call for self-nominations across the Network and collection of expressions of interest from Network Members in alignment with the criteria communicated to the members in the concept note, the first Women in Water Diplomacy Network Council was identified and announced in November 2021. The new Leadership Council’s brings together high-level representatives from African nations, each with specific expertise and experience to cooperatively leverage to further develop the aims of the Network. Many thanks to each of the new Council members including Yodit Balcha, Senior Climate Change Adaptation Advisor at the Ministry of Water and Energy (Ethiopia); Jacqueline Nyirakamana, Chair of the Nile -Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Member, Transboundary Water Resources Cooperation Specialist, Ministry of Environment (Rwanda); Theresa Khakasa Wasike, Director of Administration, Ministry of Water (Kenya); Dr Tahani Sileet, Head of the Central Department for External Cooperation in the Nile Water Sector, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (Egypt); Tumaini Mwamyalla, National Desk/ Focal Officer for the Nile Basin Initiative, Ministry of Water (Tanzania); Dr Muna Musnad, UNESCO Chair in Water Resources-Omdurman Islamic University, International Center for Water Cooperation (ICWC) Board Member (Sudan); Dr Zodwa Dlamini, Independent Consultant and Former Chief Delegate and Permanent Representative on the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (South Africa); Nompumelelo Ntshalintshali-Motsa, Africa Region Coordinator for the Sanitation and Water for All, hosted by AMCOW (ESwatini).

First Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council meeting

December 2021

SIWI convened the first Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council meeting December 2021, held as an online meeting over three days. Council members joined together to advance the Women in Water Diplomacy Nile and Beyond strategy development process and make final preparations for the following partner consultation meeting hosted by the Swedish Embassy in South Africa.

Launch of the Women in Water Diplomacy Nile and Beyond Strategy development process

December 2021

Since its inception more than five years ago, the Women in Water Diplomacy Network has continued to evolve and take shape. In parallel, representatives of other basin communities have turned to SIWI and the Network for advice and experience exchange as well as inspiration for their own processes focused on the intersection of gender equality or women’s leadership and transboundary water/resource management. The SIWI-OSCE-CAREC Women, Water Management and Conflict Prevention process in Central Asia and Afghanistan was launched in 2021 with direct inspiration from the Women in Water Diplomacy Network and SIWI has long supported dialogue with similar process in other regions. Further, requests, inquiries and dialogues have been had with a number of other African basin or country representatives interested in exploring opportunities to develop a community of practice for women water diplomates in their regions/basins drawing upon the experience of the Network’s development. With the aim of both digging in deeper in support of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile and developing new communities of practice beyond the Nile with initial focus on Africa, in December 2021, SIWI launched the Women in Water Diplomacy: Nile and Beyond Strategy development process with a consultation meeting involving current and future potential partners hosted by the Swedish Embassy in South Africa. During the round table event the new Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council was introduced and shared with the development and diplomatic partners gathered online the overview of the new Nile and Beyond Strategy. The assembled partners were then given the opportunity to share initial feedbacks and inputs into the new Strategy – with many expressing enthusiastic support for the innovative work of the Network and the new directions ‘beyond’ the Nile.

Read highlights or view the recording of the Women in Water Diplomacy Nile and Beyond Strategy launch event.

During the event several key resources related to the evolving field of water diplomacy and linkages to gender equality were shared by the expert participants. These resources can be found in this Newsletter’s Updates and Resources section.

Women in Water

Nile and Beyond Strategy consultation workshop for all Nile Network members

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

At the start of the new year the Nile Network gathered to discuss and continue to develop the Nile and Beyond strategy. In an interactive online workshop involving 27 Network Members and the SIWI process support team, Network Members had an opportunity to discuss the strategy’s eight strategic pillars, their objectives and further develop the focus activities in the Nile. Members expressed their appreciation and shared value in the proposal and made inputs in the strategy pertaining to the activities proposed and their implementation.

Release of the Women in Water Diplomacy Inception and Development Report 2013-2021

Report cover: Laying the Bedrock of Transformation Women in Water Diplomacy Network 2013-2021

Thursday, February 10, 2022

This publication seeks to capture key milestones in the evolution of SIWI’s engagement around the women in water diplomacy theme including the inception and development of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network.

Read the inception report

Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council meeting

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Women in Water Diplomacy Leadership Council worked to validate the second draft of Nile and Beyond Strategy in advance of the March 8, 2022 Consultation Meeting with partners.

Additional Women in Water Diplomacy Nile and Beyond Strategy consultations and partnership dialogue opportunities are planned throughout the first half of 2022. The Women in Water Diplomacy Nile and Beyond Strategy will be officially launched at a public event during the August 2022 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

To learn more or explore partnership with the Women in Water Diplomacy as part of our new Nile and Beyond strategy please contact Elizabeth A. Yaari, SIWI.