Water and Gender

Achieving gender equality in the water domain is crucial in view of the global commitments enshrined in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. An extensive analysis carried out by WWAP and a dedicated working group composed of experts from UN Agencies and representatives of water agencies of Member States, universities and NGOs, has shown that progress towards the realization of these global promises is off-track: gender inequalities in the water domain are deep and persist at all levels, implying serious repercussions on international efforts to the achievement of sustainable development.

In line with the UNESCO’s Gender Equality Priority, WWAP facilitates a wide scale Call for Action  for “Accelerating gender equality in the water domain: Bridging the data gap and developing concrete actions”, and catalyses a “multi-stakeholder coalition” consisting of UN agencies, international and regional organizations, ODAs, Member States’ institutions, and civil society.

We acknowledge the need to address gaps in gender data and agree to strengthen reporting on sex-disaggregated data in the water domain and to strive to make this data available and accessible to all for evidence-based decision-making to promote gender equality in water-related domains and we note favorably the multi-stakeholder “Call for Action to Accelerate Gender Equality in the Water Domain”.

Water Action Decade - Final Declaration, Dushanbe - June 2022

Gender defines the roles, responsibilities and opportunities of people in society, and very often, determines the potential they can achieve. This leads to women and men having different knowledge, talents, opportunities and needs. Gender also determines one’s relationship with water because it shapes the needs, access, use and benefits with respect to this vital resource.

When collecting disaggregated data, these differences become evident. The collection of water data disaggregated by sex, age, and other dimensions is a crucial step to better understand how water is used, managed and distributed. Therefore, conducting gender analyses allows us to identify and understand gender issues, and how to adequately address these in planning, projects and policy.

Good data and robust gender analyses are indispensable to reach the ultimate goal of gender equality: when all have equal conditions for realizing their human rights and for contributing to, and benefiting from, economic, social, cultural and political development. Unfortunately, a big gap persists in sex-disaggregated data in water statistics at all levels.

Within the framework of the UNESCO Priority on Gender Equality, UNESCO WWAP works on ‘water and gender’, through four pillars:

  • Water and Gender Indicators, Methodology and Tools
  • Capacity Development
  • Projects in the field
  • Communication and advocacy

Methodology, Indicators and Tools

To close the gap of sex-disaggregated water data and provide scientific evidence on gender inequalities in the water domain, UNESCO WWAP has been working on the creation of water and gender indicators, a baseline methodology, and practical techniques and tools for the collection and analysis of disaggregated data in the field.

The aforementioned tools are integrated in the UNESCO WWAP Toolkit on Sex-disaggregated Water Data, first edition released in 2015, and second edition released in 2019.

Toolkit on Sex-Disaggregated Water Data

The positive response of the Member States on the 2015 Toolkit (Box 1) inspired the development of a revised and more comprehensive second edition, published in 2019. The second edition contains lessons learned during the testing of the WWAP methodology in the field, and importantly, was re-shaped to address the SDG 6 and its targets, and the interlinkages with gender equality and women empowerment (SDG 5), and the other remaining Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
-Tool 1 ‘Gender-responsive indicators for water assessment, monitoring and reporting features 105 gender-responsive indicators in 10 priority topics aligned with the 2030 Agenda (water governance; WASH; knowledge resources; transboundary water management; water for agriculture; water for industry and enterprise; human rights-based water resources management; water, migration, displacement, and climate change; indigenous knowledge and community water rights; water education and training).
-Tool 2 ‘Methodology for the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’ describes the methodological approaches and concepts collecting good quality data.
-Tool 3 ‘Guidelines on the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’  covers data collection methods for different users and different geographic regions.
-Tool 4 ‘Questionnaire for the collection of sex-disaggregated water data’ lists 364 questions with instructions for developing surveys and interviews to collect qualitative and quantitative data in the field.

The set of 4 Tools is designed to help collect relevant quantitative and qualitative water and gender data useful to inform water policies and planning. They aim to help decision makers adopt data-driven, gender-transformative water policies and bring about concrete changes to advance gender equality in water and meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Capacity development

One of the spear point objectives of UNESCO WWAP is to help overcome the gap in gender data and set the basis to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the water sector. The WWAP methodology on the collection of sex-disaggregated water data with its own gender-responsive indicators (UNESCO WWAP 2019 Toolkit) is a unique resource that sets a global standard for gender responsive/transformative water monitoring and assessment. WWAP supports its application through a dedicated Capacity Development Programme.

WWAP offers training activities tailored to the specific requirements of countries and regions, and fit to the needs a wide range of users (governmental staff, policy-makers, researchers, students, non-governmental entities, regional organizations including river basins and transboundary commissions, and community organizations). The training duration may vary according to the needs of the recipient, from the recommended 5 days for the complete training course, an introductory version of 2 days, or extended “on-demand” trainings. The trainings are designed to be delivered in both face-to-face and virtual formats.


The WWAP capacity development programme is based on modular content, thereby covering a wide range of topics that gradually advances in terms of difficulty. It equips trainees with the conceptual basis of gender in the water realm, instructs them on the WWAP tools for the collection and analysis of disaggregated, good quality water data, and importantly, provides the foundation for carrying out contextualised gender analyses and effective integration of gender into the water sector.

Examples of training topics include:

  • Understanding water and gender to achieve the 2030 Agenda
  • Sex-disaggregated water data: why are they crucial?
  • Gender-responsive water assessment, monitoring and reporting
  • From theory to practice: how to develop a water and gender survey
  • Linking data to comparable information: the use of water and gender indicators
  • From sex-disaggregated water data to evidence-based policies
  • From policy to action: gender-transformative water policies and programming


The training programme can provide trainees with specific tools and skills to:

  • Understand gender integration concepts, sex-disaggregated water data and indicators;
  • Autonomously conduct gender surveys and interviews on water-related topics;
  • Acquire the skills to record and analyse raw data;
  • Be capable of integrating a gender component into water projects and programmes;
  • Be able to use reliable evidence in the policy-making process in order to make policies gender-responsive/transformative;
  • Disseminate the acquired knowledge with colleagues, leaders, students and other relevant persons.

Special focus goes to the interlinkages among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 5 (gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls) and SDG 6 (water and sanitation) in their intersections with the other SDGs.

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WWAP has extensive experience in water and gender project implementation in which it is responsible and/or advisor for the mainstreaming of gender-responsive water monitoring, assessment and reporting. WWAP also contributes with expertise in the application and dissemination of sex-disaggregated indicators.
WWAP relies on a solid and tested methodological approach to effectively include  consideration of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and inclusive governance to project proposals and implementation, water management planning and donor’s waters portfolio for an improved (integrated) management of freshwater resources, including in  transboundary contexts.

Communication and Advocacy

WWAP’s efforts are centred on:

  • Mobilising decision-makers and governments to accelerate gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the water sector through concrete and bold actions.
  • Raising awareness on the need for collecting sex-disaggregated water data and enhancing knowledge of project managers and partners on the topic.
  • Providing guidance on gender integration and gender mainstreaming in practice.
  • Informing a wide range of stakeholders on WWAP’s activities and publications with respect to water and gender, and a broad spectrum of interlinked development topics.

WWAP is an active actor in the organization of workshops at international events such as the World Water Week (WWW), International Water Council (IWC), Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and a multitude of other conferences and meetings. Regional and national advocacy events also form part of WWAP’s field of action, to ensure the incorporation of a regional component in its strategy, and collaborate with regional actors.

WWAP facilitates a coordinated Call for Action to accelerate the achievement of gender equality in the water domain, together with a multi-stakeholder coalition composed by UN agencies, international and regional organizations, NGOs, ODAs, Member States institutions, private sector and civil society.

In order to support the aforementioned efforts, and to communicate its messages in the broadest way possible to the general public, WWAP is also present on social media and can be followed on Twitter through @UNESCOWWAP