Empowering women in water – perspectives from the African region

The involvement of IWA’s Specialist Group on Sustainability in the Water Sector on the issue of Women in Water dates back to IWA’s 2018 World Water Congress & Exhibition in Tokyo, when our SG co-hosted a workshop that addressed workforce issues such as staff training and retention.  After the workshop, two young female attendees told me that they appreciated the good ideas they had heard, but that since they were women and worked for men who were not interested in hearing the opinions of women, they probably would not be able to put the information they had learned in the workshop to effective use.  

This story may seem to support the idea that the issue of women in the water sector should be primarily viewed through an equity lens.  But our Specialist Group addresses the topic more broadly.  Given the massive challenges confronting the water industry today, incomplete use and development of the skills and talents are not only unfair to women, but a disservice to everyone – male co-workers who do not get the benefit of women’s knowledge and skills, communities and businesses the water industry should serve, and the ecosystems that we all should protect.  Building on over 30 years of experience as a Manager at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission which provides water, wastewater, and power services to the San Francisco Bay Area, I know that our work is complicated and requires all our contributions.  Experience has also taught me that men as well as women have questions about how we can work together more effectively.  

The webinars and workshop our Specialist Group has provided on Women in Water throughout the years (an international webinar on Women’s Day in 2021, a webinar focused on Spanish speakers on Women’s Day in 2022, and a workshop at the IWA World Water Congress in Copenhagen in 2022), have focused on how we can work together to help women optimise their contributions to the water industry.  

 Our Specialist Group has worked collaboratively with the African Water Association (AfWA) on many issues, including the role of utilities in Africa in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, the digital worker, and women in water.  On Women’s Day this year, AfWA and IWA will co-host a webinar to empower women in water with enriching perspectives and experiences from the African region.  


Speakers include:  

Maha Salah Khalla, GIZ Nile Delta Water Management Programme, Egypt

Chataigne Djuma, IWA YWP Steering Committee, Congo

Geraldine Mpoum,a Logmo, CAMWATER, Cameroon

Maggie Momba, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

Leunita Sumba, WIWAS, Kenya


Topics discussed will include:  

  • Advancing in the water industry;  
  • Providing and receiving mentoring;  
  • Effective responses to disrespectful and discriminatory behaviour; 
  • Multiple life/work responsibilities; 
  • Age discrimination; and 
  • Self-confidence and self-presentation.   

 Our goal is to help both men and women develop a greater understanding of the challenges they face in the water sector, so that they can work better together and untap their full potential.  

In our webinars we speak plainly and clearly about issues that affect all of us in the water industry, so we hope you will join us for our webinar on Women in Water, which will be held at 15:00 GMT on 8 March 2023. You can register to attend the webinar free of charge, and let us know about the questions and topics that are of most interest to you.

Cheryl Davis

Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Cheryl Davis is Chair of the IWA Specialist Group on Sustainability in the Water Sector and has over 30 years of experience as a Manager at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission which provides water, wastewater, and power services to the San ... Read full biography