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Water scarcity is a key issue increasingly affecting cities in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region. The situation is exacerbated by other factors such as displacement, conflict, weak governance, and political and social unrest. Women and girls are among the worst affected due to their social roles and responsibilities. Although they play a key role in supplying livelihoods and food security, their ability to act on the management of water resources often remains limited.
Recent research indicates that 11 out of the 17 most water-stressed countries in the world are currently located in the MENA region, with extreme cases, such as Jordan, where the annual renewable water resources are less than 100 m3 per person significantly below the threshold of 500 m3 per person which defines severe water scarcity.
Cities Alliance’s new brief Empower a Woman with Water and She Can Change Her City, provides an overview of the situation in the region, and share expert views on the issue in countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Palestine. The document showcases some of the grassroots initiatives that are enabling women to play a role in water management and makes recommendations for improved women’s engagement in this field.
Women should have a seat at the decision-making table, whether they are policymakers, leading figures spearheading the water agenda or crafters of locally owned projects that benefit vulnerable communities. There are several ways to make sure that women are not only benefitting from programmes that broadly target access to water in given communities but that they are allowed to handle the tools to manage water resources. This includes:
1. Collecting sex-disaggregated data on water access and usage.
2. Mapping gender-related roles, needs, and inequalities in the water sector.
3. Raising awareness and enhancing women’s capacities in water resources management.
4. Promoting the role of women in water diplomacy and cooperation.
Nobody gains from leaving the immense potential of women and girls untapped. Achieving gender equality also means providing healthy living conditions, which in turn requires safe access to water and sanitation for all.