« In Africa, the water issue belongs to women: they go to get water and bring it back in a bucket” says Courtès Ketcha, mayor of Bangangté, Cameroon. In France, water is immediately available but “social and economic problems to access to water have recently emerged, affecting particularly single-parent families and especially women” adds Odile Gauthier, Director for Water and Biodiversity at the Ministry of Ecology of France. Indeed, women are still underrepresented in decision-making bodies, although they have been identified as one of the nine “Major Groups” of Agenda 21 at the Rio Summit in 1992.
Wednesday's session began with a parade of women and men carrying white signs on which important issues and feminist perspectives on the relation of women and water were presented. Then, experts and high-level female political officials supported these messages by providing concrete answers based on real-world contexts. Education appeared to be the main focus, but speakers also called for an integrated approach at the local level .
“We’ve argued the case; now is the time to act!”
Kenza Kaouakib Robinson, UN-Water Secretary
At the end of the session, attendees agreed it was time for action. According to the Women for Water Partnership, governments should be made responsible for promoting women's leadership, namely at the local level. Three months ahead of the Rio+20 conference, one of the signs read “get involved with us to accelerate and achieve the millennium development goals”—a reference to the 2015 deadline. Further exchanges will continue on the Women for Water Partnership website.