Ladies from all corners of the world dressed in a rainbow of colors of their national dress to create the most diverse modeling catwalk you’ve ever seen. On Wednesday morning, I walked with these women (and two gentlemen) down the “catwalk” at the Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) “Presenting New Thinking New Challenges” session of the World Water Forum. The room was packed with both genders and people from around the world, which was exciting.
WfWP is a strategic “alliance of local, national and international women’s organizations and networks, active in the areas of sustainable development, water & sanitation, poverty, and gender”, chaired by Alice M. Bouman-Dentener. My University of Pennsylvania Master of Environmental Studies colleagues work with WfWP Communications and Advocacy Chair Kusum Athukorala on Penn’s new journal on women and water issues, wH2O. They jointly asked for my participation in the “catwalk” modeling session to help raise awareness of women and water issues.
The gracious female-empowerers strutted to the chants of “reality” and house music. Each model carried a sign with declarations from the Women’s Preconference before the World Water Forum. Mine was “In Times of Crisis, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” a declaration that reflected women are key figures in disaster relief.
Just after the attention-grabbing opening, the audience was introduced to the session’s highly-acclaimed panelists. They were:
- Maria Mutagamba, Minister of the Environment and Water in Uganda
- Rejoycce Mubadafhas, Deputy of Water for South Africa
- Famke Jannsen, Spokeswoman for Green Cross International and actress/model
- Odile Gauthier, Director of Water & Biodiversity, Ministry of Ecology in France
- Donald Steinberg, Head of United States Agency for International Development
- Hae Keyong Lee, Director of Korea’s Women Development Forum
- Celestine Ketcha, Mayor of Bangante, Cameroon
It was empowering to see these panelists present about women, water and sanitation issues. Having reached high statuses in their respective countries and organizations, they had excellent insights into what needs to be done to increase water access and status for women around the world. The fact that gender and water issues were represented in the World Water Forum was a giant step forward: hopefully at the next Forum there will be even greater inclusion of gender issues.