Sharing, developing and managing water resources for agriculture, energy and fisheries are key challenges for the Lower Mekong Region (LMR) countries. People are heavily reliant on rivers for their livelihoods and survival, yet water insecurity is increasing as a result of changing water regimes. Large water infrastructure developments such as hydropower highlight these challenges, showing how many can be disadvantaged through the loss of fishery incomes, the lack of clean water and likelihood of displacement.

Experiences of water insecurity vary depending on identity issues including gender, ethnicity, race, class and age. While women play significant roles in managing water resources, their contributions are often overlooked. Outcomes of water insecurity are rarely distributed equally. Women shoulder responsibilities to secure family wellbeing more often, while coping with everyday needs and adapting to future stresses in contexts of water insecurity. Women’s voices are the least heard in decision-making on water issues, and they are largely excluded from new opportunities. Depending on contingent identities, some women may be more disadvantaged than others.

To put gender on the water governance agenda, this brief first identifies how experiences of water insecurity in the LMR are gendered; then scopes out the current trends and policy landscape of water governance in the LMR from a gender equality perspective; and lastly recommends opportunities for future engagement and action in water governance. The brief is based on thorough literature reviews conducted by SEI.