Posted by: wfpdc | September 3, 2011

Digging Deeper: Water, Women, and Conflict

“Women in Water” has become a catch phrase in international development (and was even Water For People DC’s theme at our 2011 Gala). Images of women carrying jerry cans from distant water sources help to illustrate the negative impacts lacking clean nearby, water sources has on women and girls. These include decreased time for education, health problems, exposure to danger or violence when traveling far from their communities, and more.

Image from Sandra Ruckstuhl's Field Experience

But, with the wide range of challenges faced by developing communities, the connection between women and water problems is often overlooked. To further delve into this issue, the Woodrow Wilson Center brought together three experts to explore connections between “Water, Women, and Conflict”: Sandra Ruckstuhl (Senior Specialist for Sustainable Development at Group W, Inc.), Dennis B. Warner (Senior Technical Adviser for water supply, sanitation, and water resources development with Catholic Relief Services), and Carla Koppell (Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at USAID).

The take away points?

– Discussions such as these are merely the beginning of a conversation that needs to happen so that development and conflict resolution efforts better address women’s safety and the importance of a convenient, safe, water source.

Work to develop a framework to study how factors interact with each other (the intersection of types of violence, water access and  use issues, and gender roles, priorities, benefits, and burdens). Encourage multidimensionality.

Improve monitoring and evaluation efforts to better measure which water projects best serve the community and to prevent the breakdown of wells and other sanitation improvements. (Water For People’s innovative monitoring system, FLOW, allows the organization to locate all their water projects and graphically see which ones are in need or repair or have broken down.)

Appoint gender advisers to humanitarian responses and train field works on gender issues.

Make the empowerment of women a priority (including educational activities, economic opportunities, and participation in community activities – all areas women lack time to adequately participate in when they spend hours of their day fetching water).


The Woodrow Wilson Center has made a webcast of the entire event, “Digging Deeper: Water, Women, and Conflict,” available online.

You can also follow along to the presentations with copies of Sandra Ruckstuhl and Dennis Warner’s powerpoints.


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