Speaker said that water sector development must have gender inclusive and to ensure the women rights, all the public, and private sector have worked together, they said in Policy Dialogue on Water and Women – Does the Water Sector Development have a gender?, organized by U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCAS-W) in collaboration with Center for Social Change (CSC), Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) Jamshoro on this Wednesday.
Vice Chancellor MUET Prof. Dr. Mohammad Aslam Uqaili in his closing remarks said that MUET was the first public sector the university in which gender equity policy was implemented which was initiated by USPCAS-W in collaboration with the University of Utah. He said that the day care center, women resources center, 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 Center 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 thousand for Indus Earth Trust (IET) which is providing water wheels to the females of coastal areas of Pakistan for fetching waters.
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. Justice Rizvi – 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 Ms. 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 a clear water and women nexus emerges. She said that 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 water for women showed how the waterwheels ease the burden of rural women for fetching water instead to carry on their heads which cause mentally and physical agonies for them.
Pakistan Editor for The Third Pole Ms. Zofeen T. Ebrahim said while there are several pro-women policies but there is no road-map to see these to be translated or implemented into actions. “Women are invisible when it comes to decision making positions”, he added. She said that an enabling environment is needed to allow more women to take up such positions in institutions. She further iterated that head of a woman is for not fetching the water but thinking.
General Manager Hisaar Foundation Sanaa Baxamoosa speaking on Women and Water in Action: Experiences from the Field said that women are the primary users and managers of water but they have no control over decision making. She also said that collecting and fetching water is exclusively considered “women’s work.” She said that women are only mentioned once in the National Water Policy and recommended that women should be accepted as a legitimate group to engage with along with other water stakeholders. She further shared a few interventions related to water and women that have been taken by the Hisaar Foundation, especially the formation of Women and Water Networks and the model of urban women of Karachi raising funds 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 recognized 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, but fortunately in the implementation of the laws the women rights are used to be confiscated. He said that women especially in the rural areas of the province are deprived of their legal rights including the right to food, right to water, and especially 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 recognized in the courts of Pakistan. He said that Direct Outlets (DOs) from the water canals are declared illegal in 2013, but the influential feudal are taken 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 the majority of all sectors of government and private sectors. Advocate Palh shared number of recommendation include 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.
Executive Director CSC Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Halepoto speaking on the objectives of the dialogue said that the purpose of the discussion is to get engaged with women who have been involved in this sector including grassroots community interventions to quality research, so there can be a sharing of the ideas with a broader audience of water stakeholders. Sharing the UN Report on Gender and Equality, he said that once again highlights how serious the problem is of malnutrition in Sindh where the health status of poor rural women is far worse than their counterparts in Nigeria.
Speaking in the welcome address, Project Director USPCAS-W Dr. Bakhshal Lashari said that this National Water Center had been established by the generous support of American People through U.S. 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 recent 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 Center 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 policies, water laws, water research should be gender inclusive, and in this connection, USPCAS-W is striving hard to include the gender perspective.
Later on, speakers and notable guests inaugurated the Plant for Pakistan Campaign by planting the different trees in the premises of the Center, which was launched by Research and Development Foundation (RDF) in collaboration with USPCAS-W MUET. RDF Executive While planting trees, they said that there is not a better gift than the tree to our homeland. RDF Executive Director Ashfaq Soomro and others joined in the campaign.
On this occasion, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed between USPCAS-W MUET and IET. The MoU was signed by Mr. Shahid Sayeed Khan, IET Chief Executive Officer and Dr. Bakhshal Lashari, Project Director of MUET Water Center whereas Dr. Rasool Bux Mahar, Deputy Director USPCAS-W and Ms. Afia Salam, IET Trustee also signed as witnesses of the MoU. The MoU aims to take collaborative, sincere and genuine efforts in developing and implementing joint advocacy and research leading to the sustainable development and management of water recourses in Pakistan. Civil and Architecture Dean Dr. Khan Mohammad Brohi, Prof. Mushtaq Mirani, Mr. Dost Mohammad Baloch, Mr. Zafar Junejo, faculty and students of MUET and University of Sindh attended the policy dialogue on water and women.