Empowering Women in Water: Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific Region

IWA, Sustainability in the Water Sector Specialist Group International Women's Day

Target Audience

IWA members and non-members, IWA SGs, IWA YWP Community, women and men working in the water sector, students


This webinar was organised by the Sustainability in the Water Sector Specialist Group.

While the water challenges of both the present and the future call for us to bring the best talent, knowledge, capacities, and effort we can attract and retain from both women and men, there is currently inadequate investment in developing the skills and talents of women, recruiting them into the water sector, providing a wide range of opportunities for them to participate and use their skills, and supporting their efforts. As a result, women are numerically under-represented in areas ranging from skilled trades workers to management, as well as subject to inadequate support in optimising their contributions and this particularly in Asia region. 

 Over 75% of Asia is water insecure, with countries that are home to more than 90% of the region’s population already facing an imminent water crisis. Asia’s water security is at risk from a range of interconnected pressures including population growth, urbanisation, increasing water pollution, the over-abstraction of groundwater, water-related disasters, and climate change.  

By 2050, 64% of the population in Asia will reside in cities and more than 50% of urban residents already live in low-lying coastal zones or flood plains. This places a large population at risk from urban flooding and other disasters. 

In the Pacific context, the absence of securely managed water services is particularly evident, with 57% of the population having access to fundamental drinking water facilities, significantly lower than the worldwide average of 78%. This reduced rate is attributed to some factors like fragile economies, geographic isolation, restricted availability of public land for development, weak institutional frameworks, limited human and technical capacity, and gender inequality. Consequently, the region faces distinct challenges that demand innovative solutions for effective resolution.

There is an urgent need to advance women’s participation in decision-making and to better understand the social dimensions which affect the water collection and management practices in the Asia-Pacific region. The effort taken to fetch water by women and the extreme gender imbalance in water collection and management is considered key indicators for measuring progress in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector in this region.  

 The content of this webinar was based on the responses to a survey of Young Water Professionals (YWPs) globally, carried out from the year 2020. The session involved both senior and younger women professionals from the Asia-Pacific region while presenting experiences suitable for a wider and global audience. The speakers provided their perspectives, lessons learned, and suggestions, considering issues like cultural context, recruitment/retention of women into a wide range of roles, and the particular challenges to women in leadership positions.

Relevant information:

Learning Objectives

The presentations and discussion in this webinar should have equipped participants to: 

  • Identify barriers and opportunities related to diversity and inclusion of women in the water industry, in terms of not only hiring them but supporting their ability to maximize their contributions; 
  • Identify actions and interventions that can be applied by water and sanitation organizations to promote a more diverse workforce and a more inclusive work environment;
  • Develop ideas to personally overcome current barriers and contribute to a more supportive work environment for themselves by applying the experiences and knowledge from the presentations;
  • Gain awareness of new and innovative approaches learned from discussions during the webinar.