Quantification of Water-Gender Interlinkages for Greater Inclusivity


Gendered statistics, showing a clear gender gap, are forcing a rethink of inclusivity in society. The evidence of gender gaps through explicit quantification will help push for the much-needed greater inclusivity in the water sector too. Historically, women are active managers of water for household and productive uses, and their representation is both a requisite and a hindrance to water resources management. A growing body of evidence shows that water development projects can become more effective when women participate and achieve even greater benefits (reduced water-related risks and conflicts) when in leadership positions. Despite these, their participation in decision-making, and advancements as professionals in the water sector, remain limited.

Women are underrepresented in the water workforce, particularly in developing countries where at present, as some estimates suggest, women made up less than 17%. This underrepresentation is most evident in technical jobs (like hydrology and engineering), and leadership roles (e.g., policymakers, regulators, and managers). Also, data on their role across the water sector (globally and nationally) are limited. To address the problem, the lack of sex-disaggregated data – a major obstacle to estimating women’s representation – must be tackled, and quantifying the number of women in the water sector is the first step.

This project will provide a numerical assessment of the status of women’s representation in the water sector in individual countries/regions of the world, and hence – a basis for moving beyond just broad calls for gender inclusion in the water sector. This may require identifying relevant gender-responsive indicators, the metrics, scoring systems, and the design of methodologies to harvest data from various sources into national and global indices.

The project objectives are to:

  1. Enumerate and compare actual women’s representation in the water sector at the national/regional and global levels.
  2. Determine the rate and direction of change in women’s representation in individual countries/regions.
  3.  Identify, collect, and examine available data for such quantitative assessments and identify data gaps that need to be filled, if a more accurate and confident analysis of women’s representation in water sectors nationally or globally needs to be made.
  4. Develop an overall platform that, with time, may become a policy-into-practice tool that will provide an up-to-date overview of individual countries’ women representation; showing progress and enabling comparison over time, and helping to identify key paths for raising levels of women’s representation.
  5.  Deliver knowledge dissemination programs on water and gender-sensitive water management to a wide range of stakeholders.

The series of quantitative data sets will provide insight into the role of women in water-related industries, the degree to which women are represented across the various dimensions of the water sector, and use that as a baseline against which to improve and force a rethink of inclusive planning and policies. Doing so will help identify opportunities for greater inclusion, representation, knowledge generation, and training at global and country levels.

The project runs till the end of 2023 and has a global focus, with collaborations taking place in select countries across the globe, particularly, in the global south. All works build on previous UNU-INWEH research implemented from 2019 to 2021 on ‘Assessing the Impacts of Water and Climate-Induced Migration on Women and Girls’.

UN Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran
Schoolgirls during class in the UNHCR builded and founded primary shcool in Wad Sherife refugee camp. UN Photo Fred Noy Sudan
Woman worker under checking the waste water treatment pond / by APChanel / Shutterstock


  • United Nations University –Institute of Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA)
  • UNESCO/ World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)
  • UN Women
  • Gender@Work
  • IHE Delft (formerly UNESCO-IHE), The Netherlands
  • Simon Diedong Dombo University, Ghana
  • Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria
  • Tufts University, USA

Example Outputs of Water and Migration Research


Grace Oluwasanya

Cover photo:  African women walking with water containers on their heads in a village near the city of Tanzania, 2017/ Rashad MAMMADOV/ Shutterstock

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