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Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava* 

The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WICCI) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Economic Forum (WEF), and SHEconomy. ALL is a movement of ‘Sisters Beyond Borders.’ WEF is a platform for ‘Business Beyond Borders.’ SHEconomy is e-commerce for women worldwide in Goods & Services for ‘Commerce Beyond Borders’. Dr. Harbeen Arora Rai is the Founding President of WICCI. There are several councils formed in WICCI and among them the Water Resources Council was formed in 2020 led by Dr. Bhakti Devi who then held the position of the National President until early 2022. In its second term of WICCI Water Resources Council, it is a responsibility to endure support and encouragement to the endeavors of the women for water. This article is an effort towards it.

Women for Water in India

Amidst the climate induced water distress across the world, it is common that women and girls bear the brunt of it more in the existing patriarchal system. From bearing the responsibility of collecting water for household and to maintaining hygiene, women have mastered the responsibility. In addition, from working on these domestic waters to engaging in the global science of climate change, women professionals have also endeavoured into the leadership at all scales.
What is concerning is the cumulative proportion of women leadership are far to match the gender share in water matters. Further, less explored is the intersection between water, gender, entrepreneurship, and leadership. There is only one woman among five water professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) around the world and India performs lower than the world average. There are also many women leaders found when looked through the intersectionality of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). These women have transcended the STEM and brought the social-ecological components into the fore believing that water management is social management.
Many of them are making impact in reducing the water problems and finding solutions. However, since they are not in the forefront, their contributions go unnoticed and thus undermined. Their representation in the leadership positions in public policy, planning, programs, and projects are marginal not only affect the motivation and career path, but it also slows the process of bringing more women into the water sector in the absence of known role models in the public domain. Whereas if we acknowledge and appreciate the work of women leaders for water, there is more possibility to increase more women into the sector besides it will decrease the struggles of the women leaders as their presence will be known to the society at large. For example, Women Water Champions: A compendium of 41 women stewards from the grassroots (documented by National Water Mission, Ministry of Jal Shakti, the Government of India, UNDP India and SIWI) to underscore the critical role of women in water conservation and management & promote women’s leadership in water governance is certainly encouraging for those who are nominated as well as for other women around.
It is important to discuss more about women for water (leadership) to address the women and water matters (vulnerability) from a gendered as well as problem-solution perspectives. For women to rise to the decision making and developments in the water sector, it is also important that they document/disseminate their ideas, implementations, and impacts. In addition, to make a larger social-political-cultural impact of presence of women in water, it is also important to form collectives/consortia which will be useful in scaling and strengthening their engagements. For example, the Water Resource Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is an emerging and promising network of women leaders for water matters for women from diverse water allied sectors to collaborate for larger and long-term ideations, implementations and impacts.

WICCI-Water Resources Council

The WICCI Water Resources Council, WICCI-WRC 2022-24, represents women leaders engaged in exemplary activities around water and allied fields such as, water resource conservation, water utility, wastewater management, urban-per-urban-rural water, local-national-global management, modelling good governance, grassroots mobilization, legal action, access to clean drinking water and sanitation, hygiene, water injustice and ethics, pollution, waste, marine life, biodiversity, health, education, and many more. The WICCI-WRC vision is to re-assert the role of Women for Water. The mission is to increase the representation of the water leaders by amplifying their visibility in the mainstream water activities through documentation and dissemination of their water endeavors. Taking the Sisterhood concept, the network of the water broads (with efforts to continue expanding) will be showcased as a Water Bank of India. Some important and interesting ways of increasing collective learning and sharing are planned to upscale the engagements and impacts of women’s contribution; besides motivating more women to engage in the water matters. In other words, the Council will shall walk and talk together as a 'Neer-aur-Naari' Abhiyan alia ‘Water and Women’ Movement.

Nominations

We have now reached 50 council members in the WICCI-WRC from across the country and we are inviting more nominations to join this campaign. They have taken positions of national council, youth council, state council and city council. There were two rounds of nominations for WICCI- WRC council positions for national, state and city. The nominations happened by self and others. The positions are allocated are based on the short resume submitted in the nomination forms. Except few states (we are looking for nominations), we have representation from all over the country as shown in the mapping. Some states are well represented however, we are challenged in connecting with the warriors from the north-eastern states.
It is overwhelming to acknowledge and appreciate the diverse nominations of the water leaders and starting to learn their contributions in the water sector. There was a quick session of meet and greet. Now the broads are interacting with each other based on their sector specialisations and interests. Soon, there is a plan to start a detail interaction with each of the water leaders to understand the nuances of their engagement in the water matters and their life journey into the water sector. The sector distribution is vast and diverse. It is here realised that water is an interdisciplinary resource and thus the efforts of the water warriors overlap with more than one area of specialisation and engagement. A detail of this will be further worked out after detail interaction with each council member.

WICCI-WRC Council Members 2022-24

The national council members (2022-24) include, Dr Snehal Donde (National Council Member- Community), Dr. Anindita Pujari (National Council Member- Legal), Dr. Sonia Gupta (National Council Member- Education), Dr. Fawzia Tarannum (National Council Member- Policy), Dr. Swayamprabha Das (National Council Member- Outreach), Mriganka Saxena (National Council Member - Planning), Kalpana Ramesh (National Council Member- Design), Dr. Nivedita Sahu (National Vice President- Research), Dr. Bhakti Devi (Advisor, Founder & Past President, 2020-22) and myself as National President, and counting.
The youth council members include, Megha Gupta (Youth Representative- International Research, Development and Outreach), Vandana Tripathi (Youth Representative National- Research), Kruti Desai (Youth Representative National- Development), Kalpana Patel (Youth Representative National- Outreach), and Harshita Sehgal (Youth Representative National- RD&O) and counting.
The state and city council members include, Dr. Lubna Sarwath (State President, Telangana), Shaili Jasthi (State Vice President, Telangana), Gitanjali Rao (State President, Karnataka), Radhica Kanniganti (State Vice President, Karnataka), Vidya Ramesh (City President, Bengaluru, Karnataka), Rupal Raj (City President, Mangalore, Karnataka), Anuja Bali Karthikeyan (State President, Maharashtra), Sweta Jhunjhunwala (State Vice President, Maharashtra), Dr. Paromita Chakraborty (State President, Tamilnadu), Vanitha Mohan (State Vice President, Tamilnadu), Shalini Arvindan (City President, Chennai, Tamilnadu), J Mahil Kamalam (City President, Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu), Chandni Bedi (State President, Haryana), Madhumita Banerjee (State Vice President, Haryana), Vinni Munjal (City President, Panchkula, Haryana), Dr. Mamata Mohapatra (State President, Odisha), Sharada Bharaty (State Vice President, Odisha), Aparajeeta Vaibhav (State President, Bihar), Dr. Jyothi Kaparapu (State President, Andhra Pradesh), Dr. Rajkumari Sunita Devi (State President, Manipur), Dr. Anamika Barua (State President, Assam), Dr. Poulomi Banerjee (State President, Chhattisgarh), Deepa Dubey (State Vice President, Chhattisgarh), Charmi Patel (City President, Raipur, Chhattisgarh), Megha Burvey (State President, Madhya Pradesh), Dr. Priya Goyal (State President, Rajasthan), Simar Kohli (State President, Goa), Ekta Gupta (State President, Chandigarh), Preeti Chauhan (State President, Ladakh), Dr. Sangeeta Singh (State President, Uttarakhand), Dr. Sazina Bhimani (State President, Gujarat), Alka Palrecha (State Vice President, Gujarat), Dr. Rekha Singh (State President, Delhi), Garima Poonia (State President, Neil, Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Smitanjali Chodhury (State Vice President, Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Dr. Roshan Ara (State President, Jammu and Kashmir), and counting.

Role and Responsibilities

The nominated women leaders represent activities around water fields such as, water resource conservation, water utility, wastewater management, urban-per-urban-rural water, local-national-global management, modelling good governance, grassroots mobilization, legal action, access to clean drinking water and sanitation, hygiene, water injustice and ethics, pollution, waste, marine life, biodiversity, health, education, etc. The basic role envisaged through this consortium or collective is that these are the leaders from the filed and they shall continue doing what they are good at. In addition, each leader is encouraged to develop her team of state-city council members. Use the WICCI-WRC to initiate activities such as (but not limited to), identify more women leaders, encourage more girls to join water sector, promote things that are good, put alarm if something is not going right, award others, reach schools-colleges, and many more activities that are deemed necessary and specific to area of expertise. Make use of the other WICCI-WRC colleagues and support/promote each other to make water everybody’s business. Everyone is encouraged to exploit the 'Neer-aur-Naari' Abhiyan alia ‘Water and Women’ Movement to acknowledge the women for water and appreciate their contributions from time to time.

Opportunities and Challenges

The WICCI-WRC consortia/collective will increase visibility of the women leaders’ works by acknowledging/publishing their work from time to time. It is a good platform to upscale ideas, implementations, and impacts. Everyone is encouraged to make use of the position to influence water and women policies, programs, projects and provisions with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce. In addition, make use of the position, to apply for grants from government, corporates, research, etc. The consortia/collective build/expand the professional network using the social capital of the women leaders via the network access.
The success of such consortia/collective depends on the information flow, communication, commitment, compliance, coordination, conflict resolution, etc. A key challenge in such consortia/collective is maintain the momentum of the group dynamics since everyone has their set of scheduled activities. Another challenge is the proactive act of inclusion and expansion of network which is actually the key responsibility of the nominated water leaders. However, if not pushed, that may take a back seat due to their own engaging activities. A coordinating team is established to mitigate these challenges besides engaging regularly to get updates of the members. In addition, special events are planned for leadership trainings/workshops with the water legends of the country and elsewhere.

Way forward

Time has arrived for water to lead in all spheres, in particular the water sectors to reduce the water burden on themselves as well as the climate induced rising water crisis. Women need to be in the leading positions of the leading decision-making organisation to bring peace and ecology in the society. The country also has to be ready to be led by the women leaders. All these require efforts from the system as well as the individual women leaders besides the consortia/collective like the WICCI-WRC.
The effort here is to highlight the range of water sector practitioners. There is also effort towards strengthening the existing network and expanding the network are the key activities. The broad roles and responsibilities besides the professional and personal benefits are anticipated to emerge new collaborations. The mission to increase the representation of the nominated water leaders by amplifying their visibility in mainstream water activities through documentation and dissemination of their water endeavours is planned. Efforts are being made to reach out to develop a compendium of the women water leaders where many of the nominated women will be also featured. This is aimed to make available to the concerned organisations.
To enlighten the society to acknowledge and appreciate these women leaders for their efforts, journeys and activities in the water sector, a series of conversation is planned with them. In addition, physically meeting them at their workplace to capture the moments of actions is also in the agenda. It is a hope that in the coming two years when these position holders are around, the movement will increase the presence of women in the water sector. The third round of nominations is opened to fill the gaps in the geo-spatial and sector representation through the nomination form, https://tinyurl.com/ypctszvt. The social media ids of the WICCI-WRC are LinkedIn (WICCI WRC), Facebook (WICCI.WaterResCon), Instagram (wicci.waterrescon), Twitter (WICCI.WaterResCon).
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Acknowledgement: All WICCI Broads for agreeing to come onboard. Together the Council looks and feels strong. Megha Gupta for helping through the nomination process, coordinating the appointments, and making this article. Harshita Sehgal for documenting the nominations. Kalpana Patel for conducting the social media process. Dr. Harbeen Arora and Dr. Ritu Singh from the WICCI office for all the guidance in forming the council and carrying the admin works. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Bhakti Devi from Rishihood University and Preeti Rao of BioEnzyme Academy for helping us get nominations of women in water.
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*Entrepreneur, Researcher, Educator, Speaker, Mentor. More info at, www.mansee.in

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