Women and Rivers Asia Congress

Photo: In flood season in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, a woman harvests waterlily flowers that will be sold at a local market. Courtesy of Hoang Bich Nhung/Vietnam Rivers Network.

Background on the Women and Rivers Congress

International Rivers and its partners convened the inaugural Women and Rivers Congress in March 2019. The event brought together close to 100 women from more than 30 countries to celebrate the fundamental role women play in defending and stewarding freshwater resources, as well as to spur collective action to challenge the deep-rooted, gender inequities that women face in safeguarding rivers and river ecosystems.

Congress participants jointly developed a Celebratory Statement, and a roadmap for collective action. Each participant represented an extraordinary wealth of knowledge and have committed to pursuing early stage actions. However, to be effective, women leaders continue to need spaces to connect within and across regions for training, strategy building, and networking.

Building off of the 2019 global Congress, Oxfam and International Rivers are co-organizing a second Women and Rivers Congress with an in-depth regional focus on Asia. Women from grassroots groups, riverine communities, civil society, academia, and policy makers will come together to discuss transboundary river basin issues that span from South to Southeast Asia, share experiences and knowledge, and jointly plan collaborative strategies for women’s-led river protection campaigns.

Originally scheduled for March 2020, the Congress has now been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We look forward to convening the Congress at a later date in order to ensure the safety our participants.

Women and Rivers Asia Congress Objectives

Facilitate transboundary cooperation across Asia for the women leaders in riverine communities, co-creating a vision for the future and building a network.

Exchange tools designed to increase the capacity of local and regional groups to address gender issues in river and water management. Exchange knowledge, experience, strategies, and success stories for campaigns and advocacy work.

Share academic research on the state of women’s roles in river and water protection.

Share stories and experiences, and profile individuals and their journeys to becoming environmental leaders.

Provide a platform for celebration for World Water Day and recognition of women leaders in water resources management across Asia.

Raise the profile of the women and rivers network by securing media coverage of participants and their work.

Spotlight on Asia

Water conflict in Asia has largely been between river developers and local communities adversely impacted by development projects. In spite of clear linkages between gender and water, gender has not been a part of the discourse in transboundary water management. Women disproportionately bear the water provisioning burden in Asia in terms of collection and management of drinking and domestic water and these activities are fundamental to household sustenance needs. Understanding the ways in which gender shapes control and access over water and the differing needs and positions of women and men, is crucial to issues of poverty and water insecurity[1] as well as contribute to SDG goal on gender equality.

The Mekong Delta is a critical area for transboundary river governance throughout Asia. The Delta stretches from the Mekong River in central Cambodia, to the Eastern Sea in Vietnam. The Mekong River and its floodplains and wetlands support the livelihoods and food security of 20 million people through fisheries and agriculture. Upstream development on the Mekong has already had devastating impacts on this highly interconnected ecosystem, making the case of the sustainable development in the Delta one of high urgency and a unique opportunity to jointly develop solutions for transboundary river basin management.

[1] Genderscape of Brahmaputra River: An Exploratory Exposition- Sucharita Sen.

Women and Rivers Asia Congress Coordinators

Women and Rivers Asia Congress Partners