Home  Activities  Task Forces Water and Gender

Task Force on Water and Gender (2003-2009)

At the start of the International Year of Freshwater in 2003, the Interagency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE) established an Inter-agency Gender and Water Task Force. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) was invited to serve as Task Manager and a few non-UN entities were welcomed to participate on the Task Force. In 2004, the Task Force became one of UN-Water Task Forces and was requested to take responsibility for the gender component of the International Water for Life Decade, 2005-2015. The Task Force reported to IANGWE at its spring session and to UN-Water at its semi-annual sessions.


The Task Force’s objectives are to promote gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to water and sanitation and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) at the global, regional, national, local and utility levels. It also promotes coherence and coordination of activities by UN Water members and partners in this area. Task Force activities reflect a long-term strategy and ongoing process of gender mainstreaming, which informs the design and implementation of national planning documents.


The Task Force has prepared a policy brief on gender, water and sanitation and has contributed to the preparation of 15 case studies, entitled 'Gender, Water and Sanitation Case Studies and Best Practices'. These case studies have been incorporated into the Resource Guide on Gender and Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).

In April 2008 CaribSan was organised in Kingston, Jamaica. The topic of the workshop was 'The Integration of Sanitation Policies in National Development Plans in the Caribbean Region". Eleven countries from the Caribbean region participated in the workshop and reached a consensus on a set of recommendations for improving sanitation in the region. The workshop was first of its kind on sanitation in the Caribbean and highlighted the importance of sanitation, especially as a concern for the tourism industry. A committee was established to review the implementation of the recommendations that emerged from the workshop.

In May 2008, the Task Force organised a CSD-16 side event panel discussion with the topic 'Gender-Sensitive National Sanitation Policies – Challenges and Opportunities'.

In December 2008 an Expert Group Meeting on Gender disaggregated data on Water and Sanitation was organized to take stock of the state of gender-disaggregated data at global and regional levels and to identify obstacles to gender-disaggregated data collection and capacity. Recommendations were made on policies, practices and priorities to improve the state of gender disaggregated data. Participants at the meeting also developed gendered indicators on water, which special focus on and sanitation. These indicators should potentially be incorporated by global-level data collection entities (like the Joint Monitoring Programme). The Task Force will cooperate on the publication and dissemination of the recommendations and further outcomes of this expert group meeting.

In March 2009 at the World Water Forum in Istanbul, the Task Force organised a high-level panel on the topic 'Health, Dignity and Economic Progress: The Way Forward for Gender Equity'. During the event, the outcomes of the Expert Group Meeting were presented. The recommendations of this session were presented at the Forum's Ministerial Round Table on Sanitation for All.

In 2009, the Task Force is also planning to prepare a brochure 'Why gender counts in water and sanitation'. The brochure will address the need for gender mainstreaming in water and sanitation and will also describe the activities on gender mainstreaming that have been carried out by the different Task Force members.

Other activities have included:

  • Incorporating gender perspective into the water and sanitation thematic clusters in the programme of work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and organizing side events and updated ‘briefing notes’ on gender and water for the CSD and the Commission on the Status of Women;
  • Providing programme support for the gender component of the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Life’, 2005-2015;
  • Utilizing existing literature and working with relevant organizations and civil society to develop demonstrations of good practice in securing sustainable and equitable access to water supply and sanitation, with a special emphasis on the needs of the poor and vulnerable groups;
  • Promoting the collection and use of data disaggregated by sex by the Joint Monitoring Programme to contribute to gender sensitive policy formulation;
  • Making an effort to engage women ministers in a policy dialogue;
  • Testing relevant, available training, advocacy and educational materials in selected UN country offices, programmes and projects;
  • Utilizing existing literature and working with relevant organizations and civil society to develop demonstrations of good practice in securing sustainable and equitable access to water supply and sanitation, with a special emphasis on the needs of the poor and vulnerable groups;
  • Reviewing research on the economic value of water as an input to women's productive activities, and the effect of improved access to water on poverty alleviation among women in rural and urban areas; and
  • Encouraging UN water experts and gender specialists and networks to work together at the national level to improve programmes to achieve the MDGs and JPOI.

Coordinating organization and contacts


Kenza Kaouakib-Robinson


UN members
Economic Commission for and Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) • Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) • Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) • High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) • International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) • United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) • United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) • UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC) • UN-HABITAT • United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) • World Bank (WB) • World Health Organization (WHO)

Non-UN members
Gender and Water Alliance (GWA) • UN Foundation • Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) • Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) • Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) • Women for Water Partnership (WfW)

Freshwater Caucus for CSD • Plan International

External Links

Last update:07 Oct 2014