UN Water Conference: Gender, climate change and WASH

The UN 2023 Water Conference will take place at UN Headquarters in New York, 22-24 March 2023, co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands. Youth advocate Lyndah, part of Plan International’s She Leads programme, is one of the panelists who will advocate for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and gender equality.

During a side-event, Plan International, Simavi, and convening partners will be discussing Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation). The session is split in two parts – with different thematic scopes and panels:

  1. A gender lens on climate and youth
  2. Menstrual health and hygiene

The event will take place on Thursday 23th of March: 15:30-16:45. The location is the United Nations Headquarters, conference room C.

Girls and women are often not included in decision-making on climate change – Photo: ©Plan International

Part one: A gender lens on climate and youth

 Time: 15:30-16:05

Objectives of part one

With part one of the side-event we want to:

  1. Create awareness around the gendered impact of climate change and need for climate action;
  2. Create a platform for girls and young women to share their priorities for a more gendered response to climate-related WASH and engage in dialogue with decision-makers on these priorities;
  3. Ensure accelerated action and cross-sectoral partnerships for gender-transformative solutions to climate-related WASH.

Climate change impacts children daily

Climate change is the greatest global, intergenerational, gender, and social injustice of our time. Those who are already marginalized and in the most vulnerable position will experience the greatest impact.

UNICEF estimates that 1 billion children – nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children – live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk” for climate and environmental shocks. Extreme weather events and climate variability are also increasingly forcing people to leave their homes with 9.8 million children and youth affected by weather-related internal displacement in 2020. Security of livelihoods in many countries are also significantly impacted by the declining availability of natural resources.

Girls are disproportionately affected

The climate crisis is intensifying existing inequalities, particularly the most marginalized girls and young women, who have contributed the least to the climate crisis. Worldwide, women and girls have less access to resources such as land and financial resources, and are not included in decision-making that would otherwise enhance their capacity to adapt to climate change. Women and girls can be active and effective agents in promoting adaptation and mitigation.

Giving girls the chance to speak on climate change

Plan International, Grundfos Foundation, Simavi, the Global Adaptation Centre and the Youth Climate Advisory Panel provide a stage to young people from across the world to present their experiences and priorities for climate change.

The panelists include:

  • Lyndah, youth advocate from Uganda, She Leads programme of Plan International and partners (virtual participation). Lyndah previously participated in COP27;
  • Laura, Dutch Youth Climate Movement;
  • Persis Ramirez, Global Centre for Adaptation, Grundfos Fellowship programme;
  • Representative from the Dutch government René van Hell, director Inclusive Green Growth department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • Representative from the Danish government Karin Poulsen, head of the department Green Diplomacy and Climate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • Representative from the Ethiopian government;
  • Representative from Plan International Anne Smith Petersen, COO Plan International Denmark.

The panel is moderated by Kim Skibsted Nøhr, CEO Grundfos Foundation.

Part two: Menstrual health and hygiene

Time: 16:10-16:45

Organizers: WASH United (submission), Ministry of Education and Sports Uganda, the Global Menstrual Collective, UNICEF, GIZ, Plan International Netherlands, Simavi, PSI Europe, WaterAid, The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund

Objectives of part two

With part two of the side-event we want to:

  1. Position menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) as a critical contribution to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Water Agenda;
  2. Highlight how different stakeholders (government, donor, implementing organisation) are committed to national and global level monitoring and accountability, and how this helps to accelerate progress in MHH and towards the SDGs;
  3. Lay out what is needed for MHH to be an own target/indicator in the post-SDG framework and presenting the commitments from the MHH community to support this process.

The stigma on menstruation

Menstruation is a natural part of life for around 1.8 billion people in the world (UNICEF, 2019). However, it is often accompanied by taboos and stigma, making it a difficult topic to talk about.

Much like the topic is avoided in daily lives, menstruation and MHH are not explicitly mentioned under the SDGs, despite their relevance to achieving multiple SDGs (Sommer et al, 2021) and the Water Agenda. Without clear international and national goals, MHH will remain a low priority and progress will continue to be fragmented at best.

A panel on periods

In this session, a wide range of stakeholders from the WASH and MHH space will come together to catalyse progress towards a world in which no woman or girl is held back because of her period.

The panelists include:

  • Representative from Ministry of Health, Uganda
  • Maura Barry, Senior Deputy Advisor at USAID
  • Hasin Jahan, Country Director at WaterAid Bangladesh
  • Thorsten Kiefer, CEO WASH United
  • Joke Baak, Senior WASH advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands
  • Video message from UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (tbc)

The session is moderated by Marni Sommer, professor at Columbia University.



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