South Asian Water (SAWA) Leadership Program on Climate Change
The Fifth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identifies the key risks for South Asia as increased river, coastal, and urban flooding as well as drought-related water and food shortages, with significant impacts for both rural and urban populations. The report also highlights the lack of knowledge required for developing gender-sensitive adaptation strategies to manage climate change impacts. In South Asia, not many female water professionals have leadership roles. Although women are instrumental in securing access to water sources, they have a negligible voice in the decision-making process and in the creation of water policies.
The South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies (SaciWATERs) is launching the South Asian Water (SAWA) Leadership Program on Climate Change. The goal of the program is to increase the number of women occupying leadership roles in the water sector. With IDRC support, the program will be awarding fellowships to 36 women enrolled in master’s-level integrated water resources management programs in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and providing these women with opportunities to access decision-making environments through internships.
The program will place emphasis on intensive training in the application of research methods that include gender and social approaches. Leadership skills development will also be provided through activities such as team-building; communication skills; application of negotiations and conflict resolution in the field; and mentorship and networking. SAWA will collaborate with governments, NGOs, and the private sector to provide an authentic work environment that allows candidates to link their research to actual decisions and applications within the communities with which they are engaging. The program will generate greater participation by women professionals in policy and decision-making processes by encouraging them to occupy leadership roles in water planning and management and by encouraging them to develop climate-resilient policies to address water insecurity resulting from climate change in their own local contexts.
In addition, the program will promote an interdisciplinary approach on how social and cultural interpretations of gender intersect with the issues of climate change and water insecurities through the development of a common curriculum across four water engineering institutions. This will allow for the development of a broad base of trainers and researchers, both women and men, who will share the leadership program’s vision in the long run.