Lessons from Co-Creation of a Platform for Women in Water Governance in the Mekong Region
Women are frequently excluded from decision-making processes related to water, river, and environmental governance and management, despite well-articulated policies and agendas to include women and other socially marginalized groups. The inclusion of women’s voices requires addressing a multitude of barriers, some of which are deeply ingrained in the way that cultures and societies operate, and even how women are conditioned to value themselves – and therefore not easily addressed, even with valuable and well-meaning global and regional directives.
In 2019 and 2020, at the Women and Rivers Summits, women leaders in water and river governance—including community leaders, activists, and members of civil society— expressed an interest in a safe, inclusive digital space to support collaborative work across cultures and languages in order to balance the male-dominated arenas of environmental decision-making and governance. A pilot scoping study (2021) identified additional barriers including cultural biases leading to women having less time for and access to digital tools such as smartphones, computers and affordable data. They are also less likely to have the skills to use digital tools.
In February 2023, the 12-person all-female steering committee convened to begin the process of co-creating this safe space, with security safeguards, a robust governance structure, and initial wireframe ideas for the online space, backed up by technology infrastructure that establishes a baseline of no electricity, no hardware and connectivity, no literacy or digital literacy, with a minimum of start-up funds to build the necessary infrastructure. The project’s initial pilot region is the Lower Mekong Basin countries and Myanmar, but engages a gender-balanced Advisory Board that brings global perspectives and transdisciplinary expertise.