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Empowerment of Women and Water in Central Asia and Afghanistan - A new way forward

A meeting of the new Steering Committee and External Advisory Committee meeting on women empowerment to sustain the Women and Water in Central Asia and Afghanistan network was held on July 12-13, 2017, in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

At the meeting each country covered by this network including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan was represented by at least one woman-leader working on issues pertaining to water resources sustainability, climate change adaptation, or women empowerment. 

The session was organized the Socio-Ecological Fund in Almaty, with the support from the US Embassy in Kazakhstan, U.S. Geological Survey, and TCO – the partners of the host organization, which supported the initial meeting of the network in June 2016 in Almaty.

The main objectives of the meeting were to discuss the organization of this network such as bylaws for the organization, development of mission and scope and creation of an outline for plan of action for the year(s) ahead.   

The steering committee agreed that the purpose of the network is to engage and empower women scientists, engineers, managers, and decision makers in the discussion and decision making process of critical issues regarding access to water and enhancing career opportunities for women and thereby enhance inter-governmental and trans-boundary collaboration. 
The steering committee members adopted a mission statement and by-laws, as well as developed priority actions for the first year.  A secretariat also was established to carry out day-to-day functions.  

They adopted an organizational structure consisting of a president, secretary/treasurer, communication director, and development and fundraising director as well as two at-large members who will be assigned duties to implement special tasks.  

They also established an appointed External Advisory Board that initially includes representatives from the Women for Water Partnership (WfWP), the UNESCO World Water Assessment Program, the German-Kazakh University, UN Women, the U.S. Geological Survey (Dr. Ingrid Verstraeten), OSCE, and World Bank.  

The Steering Committee will serve as a vehicle to implement the following recommendations of the 2016 workshop:

  • Develop a regional position paper addressing common gender issues;
  • Build and maintain a web site and discussion platform for the network of women scientists, engineers, and policy makers in the water sector;
  • Provide career development and leadership skills training;
  • Provide scholarships designated for women to participate in conferences and trainings in the US and Europe; and
  • Further the statistical understanding of women participation in the water sector [to include published research].
Image showing structure of the Steering committee
Structure of Steering Committee on empowering women to help sustain the Women and Water in Central Asia and Afghanistan network(Public domain.)

Priority actions identified included:

  1. Promote women in planning of basin councils of transboundary rivers to promote cooperation on transboundary level, and present at the regional level
  2. Develop communication strategy for the network to work with our target groups - donor communities, members, SC and Advisory Board
  3. Present and promote network at regional fora on water, SDGs (e.g., participate in the high level water event in Dushanbe)
  4. Organize online workshops / webinars to share best practices
  5. Include success stories to promote on website to reach out broadly
  6. Conduct a survey among students and existing women water professionals to learn about barriers, challenges in the study and work environment to realize their professional potential/ leadership potential
  7. Reach out to high level women as potential members and future advisory board members
  8. Reach out to retired experienced female water professionals and engage them to transfer the knowledge and experience to younger professionals
  9. Attend 10-day July 2017 field expedition mission in Uzbekistan and share knowledge with students (analyzing water, working with scientists).
  10. Develop outreach materials including fact sheet