Photo: Women farmers use water from the tributary of the Salween River in Loikow township, Kaya state of Myanmar. Courtesy of Savann Oeurm/Oxfam.

The following list of thematic issues, strategy and approach framework, and capacity building sessions is proposed by the Congress organizers based on our current understanding of the needs, goals, and objectives for the Congress. These areas for discussion will be shaped and confirmed based on collection of participant feedback regarding desired outcomes and objectives for the Congress. We are engaging participants and subject matter experts in the creation of the Congress agenda through a participant survey and the Women and Rivers Congress Steering Committee.

Proposed Thematic Issue Areas

Law, Tenure and Community Management

Recognition of how women use, access and control freshwater resources is often embedded in cultural and societal approaches to managing and governing natural resources as a whole. Women are active in many aspects to household and community decision making over water resources. In many cases, indigenous women are also leading some of our most effective fights for river and land protections, and for recognition of rights to decide how freshwater resources and ecosystems are managed, accessed and used. However, when we look at decision making in infrastructure and governance, throughout the processes of planning and regulation, women are often under-represented, marginalized, and gendered impacts are ignored.

This theme will present current research collaborations exploring the context of community water tenure, and women’s rights. We will also look at examples of community management, where gendered roles are recognized, and hear from case studies where indigenous recognition of women’s rights is present. We will look at the movements for legal protection of rivers, and women’s issues and roles within these.

Conservation and biodiversity

Bringing together science, academia and local forms of knowledge, this theme will look at who is generating knowledge, and how these are being used to raise profile of women’s issues and rights while contributing to biodiversity and conservation outcomes. We will hear from women leaders using knowledge creation to stimulate change in thinking and practice around river management and freshwater resource use and protection. Speakers will include women scientists leading work around biodiversity and conservation that advances community and women’s rights in river use and management. We will also look at examples of how we can best communicate knowledge towards societal and institutional change.

Rivers and gendered livelihoods

Rivers and freshwater ecosystems underpin livelihoods of river communities the world over. This sub theme will look at examples of women’s leadership in fisher / farmer communities, and in CSOs working with communities to support of women’s rights. This will also include researchers and academics working to support gender work in river communities and their livelihoods.

Proposed Strategy and Approach Sessions

Resource Mobilization: Learn, Share, Stimulate, Collaborate

This session will explore how women leaders in water and river issues can best collaborate to raise the profile of these issues and build momentum. The Congress will gather a mix of leaders and experts from civil society and philanthropic sectors in addition to community activists and representatives. This session provides an opportunity to connect with a wider network of experts playing various roles to further our work toward the goals of protecting freshwater resources and advancing women’s rights.

Collaborations for Impact and change

Lasting impact is best achieved through strong collaboration and networks, often by drawing together divergent groups toward a common outcome. Building on the Resource Mobilization session, this theme will allow us to hear from some of the more effective collaborations and networks, and the roles that women play within these. We will explore what good collaboration looks like, how we can best generate collective power, how to build youth networks for emerging women activists and leaders. This session will aim to erode existing silos and foster relationships and collaboration between those focused on women’s land rights and women’s water rights, as well as those focused on women’s water rights and women’s rights more broadly.

Storytelling: Women as knowledge holders, stewards and catalysts for change

This session will provide opportunities for participants to build communication skills that will amplify their voices and their struggles. Topics include story coaching, the role of arts and culture, and using video for visualizing the rivers and women’s roles.

Proposed Skills and Capacity Building Sessions

We propose to cover the following topics through skill and capacity-building sessions. These topics have been identified as important and widely welcomed by Congress organizers and their partner and networks in previous gatherings and training workshops. We will provide an introduction to these tools and approaches, and continue to hone these topics as input from participants is received prior to the Congress.

  • Forum theatre: We will use the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology to look specifically at the context of women’s exclusion, and explore the use of forum theatre to break down barriers to advancing women’s rights and leadership - especially focused towards household and community/societal barriers.
  • Activism and advocacy: We will discuss models of change and share stories featuring successful strategies and outcomes.
  • Environmental human rights defenders: We will share strategies for the protection and security of women activists and community leaders.
  • Using gender analysis and gender tools to advance women's rights in rivers and water resources: We will introduce existing tools for gender analysis and impact assessment, and explore current experience in their application.
  • Voice and power: We will share experiences on developing stories, and using stories to bring about change. Opportunity for video production training may be provided.
  • Honing your asks: We will engage with women leaders in the philanthropic foundation sector, sharing stories of what is working, what’s not working, and why. Participants will be provided with an opportunity to test and strengthen proposals and collaborations.
  • Working with media: This session will provide tips on developing stories and issues that are media worthy and developing relationships with media. We will cover both earned print media and social media strategies.