Women empowerment is crucial for sustainable development in Drin river basin

Women empowerment is crucial sustainable development Drin river basin

Photo: @2S Studio


October 20, 2021






October 20, 2021





There is a long road ahead for achieving gender equality in the Drin riparian countries and truly enabling sustainable development, but women leadership and participation in the region is moving the needle, according to participants at a workshop organized by GWP-Med.

The event was held to discuss solutions in the context of the energy-food-water-ecosystems nexus approach. It implies integrated management of natural resources alongside economic progress with the inclusion of people who do not typically have a voice in decision making.

An online workshop titled Gender Equality for sustainable development in Nexus sectors in Drin Riparians took place on October 12. It was held in the framework of the project Promoting the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in Southeastern Europe, through the use of the Nexus approach.

The project is financed by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and implemented by the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-Med) in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The purpose of the event was to introduce and update nexus-related stakeholders with the basic concepts of gender equality, women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming as key components of sustainable development. The idea behind the nexus approach is to improve economies and societies without compromising the natural environment or the well-being of future generations.

For any development effort to be sustainable and effective, the needs of all people must be considered, including those who don’t typically have a voice in decision making, the organizers said. They pointed to the overlapping factors between energy, food, water and ecosystems.

The Drin river, also called Drim, flows through Albania, Kosovo* and North Macedonia, and its catchment includes parts of Montenegro and Greece. The countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2011 in Tirana on the vision for the sustainable management of the basin.

Women empowerment sustainable development Drin

Not much progress since 1982

The workshop’s participants said the commitment to gender policies and strategies are present at the national level, but that environmental and water policies and strategies do not, in general, have references to gender. They discussed women’s leadership and empowerment and possibilities for participation.

Female experts and government representatives made it clear they have the ability – and responsibility – to build a network and accelerate progress

The intention was to provide a platform to all Drim riparians to share best practices and case studies and discuss policies, measures and support schemes.

Occupational segregation and traditional gender roles in the region have still a long way to achieve the full potential for the emancipation of women and meeting the conditions for sustainable development. However, female experts and government representatives that attended the workshop made it clear they have the ability – and responsibility – to build a network and accelerate the rate of progress that is already evident.

Women empowerment crucial sustainable development Drin river

Barriers are in outdated, discriminatory rules

“When we talk about sustainable development, we often neglect the emphasis on securing equal access and usage rights to natural resources, especially for marginalized and vulnerable population groups including women. Since 1982, as you probably all recall, UN agreements and policies widely acknowledge and recognize clearly the key role women must play in the collection, safeguarding and management of water for domestic care, food security and agricultural use,” said Anthi Brouma from GWP-Med. She is the deputy regional coordinator and theme leader on water regional governance, sustainable financing and diversity.

Little has been done in the past three decades, and policy design, decision making and management related to water resources remain largely in a masculine domain, she stressed. The disbalance is not confined to the water sector, Brouma pointed out and said there are issues across the nexus board. “Gender equality is a critical ingredient in achieving sustainable development. Gender equality and sustainable development are in fact inseparable,” she stated.

The barriers that affect sustainability policies are mainly found in outdated, discriminatory social norms and legal systems, she asserted. In Brouma’s view, investing in girls and women requires no radical interventions but it can break systemic barriers of power and privilege that continue to leave millions behind. “So it is up to all of us to lead by example and lead by practice to make this change happen,” she said.

Women empowerment is crucial for sustainable development GWP-Med

Statistics, state budgets need gender components

Corina Pröll, Gender and Development Advisor from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), highlighted the role of gender-responsive budgeting. She said the effects of climate change, the current pandemic and the use of natural resources are clearly not gender neutral but that they affect women more than they do men.

GWP-Med’s Senior Programme Officer Tassos Krommydas explained that the overall aim of the nexus approach is to optimize, in a combined manner and not separately the security in water, food and energy resources, while at the same time ensuring that healthy ecosystems are preserved.

Krommydas: Different sectors compete for the same limited natural resources, so interconnections and trade-offs need to be defined and reconciled to enable synergies

“The idea is to work in institutional settings and develop the legal framework and current management practices. Different sectors compete for the same limited natural resources, so interconnections and trade-offs need to be defined and reconciled to enable synergies,” according to Krommydas.

Liza Debevec, Senior Gender and Social Inclusions Specialist at GWP, urged all researchers to include gender inclusion analysis so that they are able to understand who is included and who is excluded. Participants from North Macedonia, Kosovo* and Albania mirrored her stance and explained the benefits of so-called gender data desegregation.

Traditional gender roles are isolating women

“Sustainable development is a concept of ensuring human well-being, ecological integrity, gender equality and social justice, integrating the environment, economics and society. It implies the protection of human rights including access to food, water and sanitation, widening freedoms and promoting peace. Gender equality is therefore integral to how sustainable development is defined and pursued,” said Senior Gender Advisor at GWP-Med Fiorela Shalsi.

Sustainable development also implies peace and human rights

Due to gender roles, women and men have disparities in economic opportunities, access and control to productive resources and knowledge, she underscored – they engage differently in household care, public life and decision making. One of the most pressing issues is that women don’t enjoy the same rights over land as men, according to Shalsi.

Women empowerment crucial for sustainable development Drin river

People demand basics: environment, protection from violence

Branislava Jovičić, Communications Consultant and the Founder and Editor of Balkan Green Energy News, noted that a similar online workshop was organized for the Drina river basin, shared by Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In her words, the challenges  for women are amost the same in the two areas.

“Women from the region should think about how we can get together, make strong connections and deal with the challenges united,” Jovičić said. She presented the results of an online poll launched ahead of the workshop.

Most participants, 72.7%, identified clean and healthy environment as the most important aspect of sustainable development. Quality education was in second place, with 63.6%, while female and youth jobs and gender equality were also ranked above 50%.

The prevention and elimination of violence against women in families and the state is the most important aspect of gender equality in the personal view of the respondents, at 71.4%. It shows the pressing need to meet basic prerequisites for improving the situation for women.

Women empowerment sustainable development

Rural women mostly inherit property only if they are widowed

Vaska Mojsovska, President of the National Federation of Farmers of North Macedonia, pointed to the fact that only 27.8% of property in the country is owned by women. Moreover, in rural areas, only 5% of women are landowners, and they are usually widows.

Women in rural areas are discriminated but they are also showing a lack of awareness of their property rights

One of the main issues is that women traditionally don’t accept inheritance from their parents but they leave it to men in the family, Mojsovska said. She stressed that the National Federation of Farmers managed to get the authorities to abolish discriminatory conditions for rural women’s access to financial support.

Gender equality is one of the main components of the organization’s strategy. More than 30% of its members are women.

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