On 17 March, 2016
representatives from several industries, organisations and countries gathered
together for the 3rd International Women’s Day Conference organized
by UNESCO-IHE. This year’s topic was ‘Wanted: Women in Water’.
The event began with the opening speech of Dr. Fritz Holzwarth, Rector ad interim at UNESCO-IHE, whose words, especially the phrase, using the wind of today set the participant’s, including mine, mood and mind for the event.
Before the speakers we had the opportunity to see an appetizer from Vision Speaker Hope Mwanake’s speech. In the short video we could hear about the challenges she faced until she reached graduation and how determination was one of the key elements of success. In her speech she also highlighted that every challenge is also an opportunity. As she said: “All you need to do is think big and start small and start now”.
The first keynote speaker was Lisette Heuer from Royal
Haskoning DHV, who shared her personal experiences and she told the story of how she
became the Technical Director of Water. Her speech focused on personal passion,
supportive environment and perspectives for women in the water sector. In her
speech she listed several recommendations for organisations highlighting the importance
of diversity and having different minded people and also for students such as:
it is important to go beyond your comfort zone, learn from others and take
advantage of online education, lastly: do everything with passion.
Prof. Simone Buitendijk from the Leiden University opened her speech with focusing on the importance of education and the training of the next generations of global citizens. Her presentation was about Gendered Research and Innovation which is a very important topic as she also mentioned, “global challenges require comprehensive, multidisciplinary, evidence based, gender inclusive solutions.” Among examples for the importance of including all genders were medicine (different symptoms for cardio-vascular diseases in men and women), the seatbelt use (pregnant women often lose their child in a car crash due to the 3 point seatbelt) and climate change. She highlighted the importance of raising awareness and mainstreaming gender inclusive research.
The keynote speakers were followed by Group discussions. The participants were divided into 4 smaller groups and the sessions were moderated by students of UNESCO-IHE. The group where I was participating had participants from all around the world including Turkey, Canada, USA and the Netherlands. For us the following question was given as a guidance: “Does it matter if a profession is dominated by one gender or the other?”
The discussion allowed us to reach topics how different cultures approach different gender roles or the impact of impersonation of water within certain communities. The outcomes of group discussions were presented by the moderators which was followed by a final Q&A session.
To sum up event, it was very great to see that so many people were interested in the event both online and onsite. The main message for me was that passion, determination, education and support from the surroundings are essential elements of becoming a professional and inclusion of gender is indispensable in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. After all, we are part of the same world and our goal is the same: have a sustainable future.