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Reporting on Mekong Water Governance from a Gender and Social Inclusion Lens

Traversing nearly 5,000 km from its source in the Plateau of Tibet to the South China Sea, the Mekong River flows through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

More than 300 million people depend heavily on the availability of resources offered by the mighty Mekong River for their livelihood.

However, rapid economic growth across Mekong countries has created myriad challenges, from sand mining to riverbank erosion to the loss of riverine biodiversity to water pollution. The rapidly growing energy demands of the region has led to the mushrooming of dams and hydropower plants along the mainstream Mekong and its tributaries. At the same time, the water required for agriculture and aquaculture in the region is also growing.

With the river under pressure from these competing demands, the lives and livelihoods of women and girls — who are usually tasked with household chores that directly involve the use and management of water — is also affected.

A 2017 study from Laos and Vietnam found that  in general, women are constrained in water management in the household and community-level. Unequal gender norms curtail their public representation at all levels, and men are overwhelmingly the decision-makers behind large-scale water management policies.

To shed light on the environmental impacts of these inequitable socio-cultural practices, Internews, with funding from Oxfam is pleased to launch this new project, which aims to strengthen women’s and marginalized people’s voices in media reports on water management in the Mekong River basin.

The project aims to promote inclusive water governance in the Mekong region through these activities:

  • 15 Mekong journalists will be selected to participate in a three-day media workshop to build knowledge and skills in reporting on Mekong water governance through a gender and social inclusive lens.
  • Participating journalists will be awarded story grants of USD 1,200 each and be paired with an EJN mentor to support the production of in-depth,  inclusive and solutions-driven stories highlighting water governance issues in the Mekong region.
  • In the second phase, designed to deepen the capacity of these journalists, the participants will receive advanced training through another three-day media workshop, which will include a field trip in Cambodia in October 2024.
  • They will be awarded a second round of story grants and mentorship by experienced journalists and a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) expert to generate high-quality reporting on water governance issues in the region, centering the perspectives and experiences of women and vulnerable groups (such as youth, ethnic minorities and Indigenous peoples).

It is expected that this project will encourage more media reporting that centers on the experiences and perspectives of different gender groups and marginalized communities in relation to hydropower, fishing, use of irrigation for agriculture and other Mekong water governance issues. These media stories will inform the public and raise their awareness of the importance of inclusive water governance policies that would safeguard the interests of women and marginalized communities who depend on the Mekong River for their livelihoods.



Banner image: Vietnamese women selling produce and other goods from their boat at Cai Rang Floating Market in Can Tho, Vietnam / Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr