Water sector development must be gender inclusive and to ensure the women rights, the public and private sector have to work together, this was said by speakers during the Policy Dialogue on Water and Women - Does the Water Sector Development have a gender?
The dialogue was organised by US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCAS-W) in collaboration with Centre for Social Change (CSC), Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) Jamshoro on Wednesday. Vice Chancellor MUET Prof Dr Mohammad Aslam Uqaili in his closing remarks said that MUET was the first public sector university in which gender equality policy was implemented which was initiated by USPCAS-W in collaboration with the University of Utah. He said that the day care centre, women resources centre, separate section for women in MUET gymnasium, name to a few are the facilities exclusively provided to the women at workplace and females students in the University.
Dr Uqaili said that in MUET Water Centre, in admission as well as in employment, women are being encouraged to apply and to be facilitated accordingly. He further announced one container which cost around six hundred thousands for Indus Earth Trust (IET) which is providing water wheels to the females of coastal areas of Pakistan for fetching water.
Chairperson Sindh Human Rights Commission Justice Majida Rizvi in her keynote speech said that since water is a human right, so there is a strong bond between water and women. She said that the government and civil society must come forward for the collaborative efforts to ensure the women rights in general and for their water rights in particular. The first woman judge of Pakistan said that water and women nexus through the institutional support could bring the prosperity in the society.
Environment Journalist and Trustee of IET Afia Salam speaking on the water and women nexus said that it is essential to understand the gender roles which determine the relationship with water when the gender lens is put on clear water and women nexus emerges. The issues it reveals, due to the sidelining of women in the decision making about water, from the policy level to the usage level. She while sharing the documentary on water for women showed how the waterwheels ease the burden of rural women for fetching water instead to carry on their heads which cause mental and physical agonies for them.
Pakistan Editor for the Third Pole Zofeen T Ebrahim speaking in the dialogue said that the work of women is not valued. "Woman head is not for water fetching but thinking," she added. General Manager Hisaar Foundation Sana Baxamoosa speaking on the Women and Water - experiences from the field said that women are the primary users and managers of water but have no control over decision making, while it is used to be considered that the supply and collection of water are exclusively considered "women's work." She recommended for accepting women as a legitimate group to engage along with other water stakeholders. She further shared a few interventions related to water and women have been taken by the Hisaar Foundation especially the formation of Women and Water Networks (WWNs) which also worked for the provision of safe drinking water to the women of Thar.
Director Rights Pakistan Advocate Ali Palh while speaking on legal barriers in achieving gender equity in water distribution in rural Sindh, said that water is a human right, but unfortunately, it was not recognised as women right so far. He said that article 25 of Pakistan Constitution which is about equality of the citizens which states all citizens are equal and there shall be no discrimination by sex.
He said that women specially in the rural areas of the province are deprived of their legal rights including the right to food, right to water, and specially their right to property ownership. He was of the view that the state of affairs is being dealt with the rule by laws, not by the rule of law. Quoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said that SDG-5 and SDG-6 which are for gender equity and clean water and sanitation for all respectively. Surprisingly, he disclosed that SDGs are not recognised in the courts of Pakistan.
He said that Direct Outlets (DOs) from the water canals are declared illegal in 2013, but the influential feudals take DOs to irrigate their agricultural lands. He said that most of the government departments do not implement the laws and policies in letter and spirit. "Allotment of water connects vote and water," he disclosed. He further said that women perspective is missing not only in the water sector but from the majority of all sectors of government and private sectors.
Advocate Palh shared number of recommendations including the allotment of water connections to households registered by the name of woman in rural areas, appointment of women on public policy making, decision making & implementation bodies related to water like irrigation department, increase water quota for human consumption, and also water incentive to growers on using female growers/farmers.
Speaking in the welcome address, Project Director USPCAS-W Dr Bakhshal Lashari said that this National Water Centre had been established by the generous support of American People through US Agency for International Development (USAID). He said that Pakistan is facing water challenges including water quality and quantity, water borne diseases, water pollution. Quoting the resent reports, he said that in Pakistan 25 million people do not have access to safe and clean drinking water whereas 50 million people live without proper sanitation. He noted that Centre is trying hard to achieve the SDG-6 which is to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. He further indicated that water polices, water laws, water research should be gender inclusive, and in this connection, USPCAS-W is striving hard to include the gender perspective.