Green Growth, Water and Gender: An Interview with Marcia Brewster

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The World Water Forum provided a unique opportunity for some of the authors and directors of wH2O: The Journal for Gender, Water and Sanitation at the University of Pennsylvania to meet face-to-face for the first time. Editor Caroline D’Angelo, co-chair and Editor-in-Chief of wH2O, sat down with Marcia Brewster, an wH2O author, to discuss green growth, water and gender.

Ms. Brewster is a phenom in the water and development world: she has worked with the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Water Association, Gender and Water Alliance and the World Water Council. She also is a contributing author to UNESCO’s World Water Development Report, and chaired the IANWGE Task Force on Gender and Water.

While much of her work and expertise lies in gender and water, she has recently been a part of the Water and Green Growth Project. The project is a collaborative effort between several world organizations and water experts that are working on figuring out how to use water as a driving force for economic and environmentally sustainable development. She says while green growth is a great ideal, it is vitally important that gender and social issues are included in the agenda. She discusses some case studies from Manila and Nepal that benefited women in a specific way, either through micro-enterprises that women run, or small scale hydro-electric plants that relieved women’s water burdens.

When asked about what sort of performance indicators are needed to empower women, she highlighted the need for sex-disaggregated data at the household level. She argued that men and women answer survey questions differently. As an example, a man might answer “yes” to a question of whether they have access to water, whereas women may say “no” since they are the ones that have to walk two kilometers to fetch it. More data is also needed, she said, on female farmers, who grow a lion’s share of food in developing countries.

Last, we discussed her paper that will be published in wH2O’s inaugural issue, which will be available for download April 27, 2012. The paper, written with other gender and water leaders Kusum Athukorala, Anizan Isahak, Susmita Sinha, Salmah Zakaria and Amanda Marlin, reflects on the role that women can play in community-based water and sanitation solutions in urbanizing areas.

Listen to the interview and leave your thoughts below.

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