08 March 2021 / Vienna, Austria
International Women's Day: Our Inspiration. Our Contributions
Contributed by:
Voice of the Danube
04 March 2021

8 March 2021 is International Women's Day. UN Women set this year's theme as "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world." We feel that the water community can draw lots of inspiration from that.

This year, we celebrate International Women's Day in the shadow cast by a global pandemic crisis. Around the world, women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis response, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and also as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry. Occasionally, they receive their due applause. Yet, applause cannot replace equality in every respect.

A call for equality

In setting this year's theme, UN Women stress the necessity of “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. They also call for women's right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end of all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs.

Inspiring leadership

In the context of “Women in Leadership” it is worth remembering that around the world, governments led by women have shown stellar crisis response performances. Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Slovakia have been widely recognized for the rapidity, decisiveness and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information.

Rising barriers?

Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised pre-existing social and systemic barriers to women's participation and leadership even higher, threatening women with increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty. While women make up the majority of front-line workers in the crisis response, there is disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces.

Break them down!

Therefore, UN Women calls on decision-making bodies worldwide to uphold women's rights and fully leverage the potential of women's leadership in pandemic preparedness and response, and to integrate the perspectives of women and girls in the formulation and implementation of policies and programs in all spheres and at all stages of pandemic response and recovery.

What our sector can contribute

The Voice of the Danube community has followed this path for quite some time now, which is actually in the best interest of many utilities in the Danube region, because those are run by predominantly male and aging workforces. With gender gaps in tertiary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education closing everywhere in Europe, creating an inclusive work culture and equal opportunities for women at all levels of responsibility will be an integral part of the necessary modernization process for most utilities in the region.

Holding the course

During a pilot study in 2018, the Danube Water Program and the World Bank Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership collaborated with three pioneering utilities in the Danube region to explore gender equality in their workplaces. The study group assessed gender balance, career-related policies and practices, cultural inclusivity and paycheck equality, later presenting the results in a webinar, together with recommendations on actions that utilities could take to enhance gender equality in their workforces. Further information on the topic can be found under the links below.

We enter the year 2021 with every intention to proceed on this course, wish everybody an inspiring and successful World Women's Day and invite you to turn to the UN Women's website for further information. 

International Women’s Day 2021 | UN Women – Headquarters

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (8 March), “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.

VoD - Gender equality in the Danube region's utilities

Beginning in 2017, the Danube Water Program and the World Bank Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership collaborated with three pioneering utilities in the Danube region to take a closer look at gender equality in their wo...

VoD - Women in Water Utilities : Breaking Barriers

Women are significantly underrepresented in the water workforce. Multiple barriers, ranging from social norms, to inadequate HR policies, to an unwelcoming work environment, pose challenges to female water professionals’ enterin...

VoD - The Rising Tide : A New Look at Water and Gender

The report reviews a vast body of literature to present a thinking device that visualizes water as an asset, a service, and a space. It shows water as an arena where gender relations play out in ways that often mirror inequalities...

Equal Aqua: Inclusive Water Institutions Platform

The Inclusive Water Institutions (IWI) is a collaborative platform that aims to facilitate and deepen the dialogue on gender diversity and inclusion in water sector jobs by connecting utilities, associations, the private sector, academia and various organizations.