WOMEN AND RIVERS-CLIMBING MOUNTAINS?
I am sitting in the Secretariat room of the Women and Rivers Congress here in Nagarkot, Nepal and I have snatched 5 minutes to reflect on why I am here and what is about to happen. It’s the last few hours before the Congress officially starts and over 95 women participants (with a few male colleagues) have been arriving from all over the world through the last night and day. To arrive at the Congress venue participants have to bump up a rough track twisting and turning around the mountain. For many this has been at night so it is a relief not to see the drop on the sides of the road! For all the participants the surprise comes the next morning to wake to see we are surrounded by snow covered mountains. Making the connection between why we are talking about rivers when we are in the mountains is not so difficult as many of the rivers of Asia rise in the Himalayas but as I stare at the breathtaking view I am also struck by how promoting meaningful women’s participation in water sometimes can feel like climbing a mountain.
The organizing team are working on getting final preparation in order, to start the exciting congress ahead. As I passed by, the “Market Place”- a shared resources room gets filling up the space with pictures and stories of women (and men) from across the globe working toward protecting the rivers, the main source to lives and survival for them and their families. An artist was putting her exhibition piece together on a glass wall depicting the UNDER THE WATER theme – telling the story of how river-dependent communities being evacuated out of their homes and communities to make way for a controversial hydropower dam project. More stories of the continuous struggle will be shared from women river defenders in the coming days.
Organised by our partner International Rivers and supported by Oxfam’s TROSA project (Swedish Government), the Mekong Water Governance program (supported by DFAT) and the PEM project supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the Women and Rivers Congress will bring together women leaders, activists and influencers and a sprinkling of supporters to learn from each other and to mobilise together. The excitement is growing and maybe, just maybe we are going to reach the top of the mountain in the next 3 days.