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The role of water in gender equity, during the 65th edition of the Board Meeting of the Regional Gender Conference

11 October 2023|Briefing note

During the 65th Meeting of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America, the relevance of the connections between this conference and other ECLAC bodies was emphasized. The role of water in gender equity was highlighted, identifying four gaps and promoting specific investments, execution with a gender perspective and inclusive monitoring, in accordance with the Regional Action Agenda for Water.

Dr. Silvia Saravia Matus, Economic Affairs Officer in the Division of Natural Resources at ECLAC, along with Xavier Mancero from the Statistics Division, Andrea Sanhueza, Representative of the Division of Sustainable Development and Human Settlements, and the Secretariat of the Escazú Agreement, Alberto Arenas, Director of the Division of Social Development, and Simone Cecchini, Director of the Population Division, participated in the panel on synergies between the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean and other subsidiary bodies of ECLAC on October 11th, in the context of the 65th Meeting of the Bureau of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, held on October 11th and 12th.

The meeting was organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as the Secretariat of the Conference, in coordination with UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

In her presentation, Dr. Saravia, who is responsible for regional water affairs at ECLAC, emphasized the significant interconnection between women and water. She highlighted the recent Water Summit held in New York in March of the current year. This event was part of the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the International Decade for Action, "Water for Sustainable Development" 2018-2028 and was the first of its kind in almost 50 years. The event had the participation of a total of 7,000 people and included six plenary meetings and five interactive dialogues, as well as more than 500 parallel events (with over 1,300 submissions). The headquarters of the activities saw the presence of 20 heads of state and 120 ministers. The main outcome of the event was the adoption of the Global Water Action Agenda, which managed to capture over 700 voluntary commitments.

The Water Action Agenda was previously developed collaboratively during the Regional Water Dialogues for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Chile from February 1st to 3rd, 2023. The event had a hybrid format with over 200 participants on-site and representation from more than 20 countries in the region, along with over 3,700 online registrants and more than 80 high-level water experts as panelists. The Vice President of El Salvador, Mr. Félix Ulloa, six ministers, and seven deputy ministers from different countries in the region also participated. Dr. Saravia Matus also highlighted the strong representation of civil society (indigenous groups, primary and secondary school students, women's associations, rural communities, NGOs), the private sector, international development banks, and academia.

During these dialogues, it was collectively emphasized that water plays a strong role in achieving gender equity in the region. Dr. Saravia Matus mentioned the main four identified gender and water gaps:


  1. Access to water and sanitation infrastructure, which is directly related to the health and education of women.

  2. Water management and collection, which affects women's time use and, ultimately, their employment opportunities. Women spend 2.8 times more time than men on unpaid work and household chores, and this burden is closely related to water management.

  3. Access to water for agricultural production, which inevitably impacts food security, especially for rural women.

  4. Governance, which affects collective water management. Women are often not consulted on infrastructure or water policy matters.

Dr. Saravia Matus stressed that to address these gaps, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Promote investment in the water sector, both in domestic use infrastructure and in capital and knowledge for agricultural use.

  2. Take specific measures to ensure that gender equity is considered an integral part of the efficient and effective implementation of water projects and programs.

  3. Disaggregate data related to family responsibilities and roles by gender.

  4. Design well-targeted capacity-building programs for everyone, not just women.

  5. Implement monitoring and evaluation processes with gender perspective indicators.

Her final reflection included the importance of ending gender gaps, as highlighted in the Regional Water Action Agenda, which implicitly and explicitly mentions the urgency of incorporating women's voices to address water challenges in the coming years. Gender perspective should be incorporated in all stages of planning and execution of water programs and projects. Additionally, the region should move toward modern, democratic, and participatory governance with the goal of achieving secure access to water with social justice.

For more information, please refer to the document generated by ECLAC on Water and Gender Policies in Latin America and the Caribbean at the following link.