Promoting diversity and supporting women in decision-making processes

A key challenge for gender integration within the areas of water science and water governance is the lack of gender balance in institutions. This is a concern within both developed and developing countries. Whilst the inclusion of women does not automatically translate into gender sensitive scientific analysis and planning, having a more balanced gender ratio of male and female staff is a starting step towards gender equality and diversity.

Within the SDIP, we have been working with partners in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh to increase diversity (with emphasis on women, as well as early to mid-career staff) in the trainees who attend capacity-building workshops. As part of this work, CSIRO has been providing mentoring and support to female hydrologists in Pakistan, Nepal and India. Download our factsheet on promoting gender equality in SDIP

In Nepal, CSIRO is supporting women’s participation in the Kamala Basin Planning Initiative. A study by Policy Entrepreneurs Incorporated, documented and analysed the initiatives undertaken to mainstream gender in Nepal’s water decision making. The influence and outcomes of the changing global and national attitudes on gender in water resource management and planning was also evaluated. Policy Review Women in Water: Documenting Gender Considerations in Nepal’s Water Policy, was published in November 2019.

Connecting water management with gender impact

Improving gender outcomes requires understanding what communities’ gender specific needs are, as expressed by the communities themselves. To do this, CSIRO works closely with our partners. An example is the engagement with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Indian NGO Pradan to learn from women farmers about their farming practices and water needs.

River in Kamala Basin, Nepal. Photo credit: CSIRO, Tanya Doody

River in Kamala Basin, Nepal. Photo credit: CSIRO, Tanya Doody

Having this knowledge informs our water resource modelling work by providing the linkage between irrigation and water needs at the local scale (e.g. farm or village) and the water resource policy and planning scale. It informs our understanding of how policy initiatives affect different groups, especially marginalised people.

Mainstreaming and modelling

For the water sector, the advent of gender mainstreaming presents an opportunity to build on existing efforts to include and acknowledge all users and managers of water. Current water modelling methodologies rarely include gender perhaps partly because of a lack of established methods. Using the Australian standard for best practice in modelling – Black et al.’s Guidelines for Water Management Modelling we asked,

‘When building a model to support water management, would considering gender in every stage of the modelling process create different and better outcomes for the men and women affected by water management decisions and policies?’.

We reviewed three key steps in the Guidelines and provided a range of examples and illustrations that show how gender analysis can be integrated within the modelling process.

We report the results in, Mainstreaming and modelling: how gender analysis can be applied to a water management modelling framework.

This work is summarised in the poster: Mainstreaming and modelling, Applying gender analysis to a water management modelling framework.

The future: opportunities ahead for CSIRO and partners


Research and analyse the linkages between changes in water management and associated biophysical and socio-economic impacts, and what this means for gender relations, involving women in water management, women and girls’ rights, as well as those of other marginalised groups.

For example, using Manchar Lake in Sindh Province of Pakistan as a case study, CSIRO has collaborated with the Pakistan Council of Research on Water Resources (PCRWR), Sindh Irrigation Department (SID) and the Australian National University (ANU) to understand how environmental degradation impacts women through its effects on livelihoods and wellbeing.

Considerable gender research exists for the local scale (e.g. village or household). The question is how to link this with CSIRO’s work, as well as higher level governmental/ institutional engagement

Strengthening our work on the nexus of water-food-energy and the overarching gender implications, as well as the impact of climate change.

Science-informed policy

Science is not just research, it is also about using evidence-based findings to support policy initiatives. The conceptual gap between what is done at the water modelling level, and how this affects communities needs to be bridged. This way we can better formulate narratives around broad scale change and what this will mean in everyday life contexts for women and girls, men and boys.

Measuring and documenting change

Linking to the themes of research and policy is – how we measure the positive change in gender equality and our role in it. The report Making gender count introduces an evaluation framework that includes gender so that the right questions can be asked at the right time to better integrate gender considerations into practice.

Part of CSIRO’s efforts in promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality is through opening up training opportunities for female mid-career engineers and scientists. We will support our network of trainees and build an understanding of the impact of their learning opportunities through SDIP, especially any challenges encountered.

As part of integrating gender into our monitoring and evaluation, we will embark on a learning by doing process to explore and test how gender impacts can be measured and quantified.

Project leader: Sue Cuddy

More information

More gender related reports, fact sheets and information are available on the SDIP publications page.

Find out more about international water research at CSIRO

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