IWA Women in Water Award for Leadership and Leadership Development
(Given in memory of Hei-Jin Woo)
The IWA Women in Water award acknowledges and celebrates leadership of women in the field of water. Through this award, IWA seeks to recognise females working in the field of water who through their demonstrated leadership have had a significant positive impact on the development of the industry. The award showcases an individual’s excellence in leadership as demonstrated by outstanding initiatives, impact of work and inspiration to others. With this award the IWA seeks to encourage greater participation of women into the field of water and hopes to motivate more women to pursue leadership positions within the sector. The criteria are:
• Demonstrated leadership within the sector which has had a positive impact in the advancement of water management
• Demonstrated contributions towards the development of future leaders
• Demonstrated contributions towards IWA and/or other water-related groups, Associations or institutions
• Open to all women working in the water industry. Awardees need not be an IWA member
Current Award Holder
Ms Kusum Athukorala
who is based in Sri Lanka is a multidisciplinary skilled researcher and advocacy specialist, internationally recognized for her work in IWRM, gender and water,crossing disciplinary and academic boundaries to water management from her 12 years previous experience as a university teacher in languages and cultural studies, With a first degree in English from the University of Kelaniya, she holds a M Sc in Managing Rural Change, Imperial College, University of London.
She has held a series of responsible positions in regional and international boards and spent a large part of the past decade in establishing and growing an array of national and international civil society organizations related to water management. She is Founder/Core Group Member and Theme Coordinator Advocacy for SaciWATERS (South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Studies, Hyderabad –India); Founder President Network of Women Water Professionals, Sri Lanka (NetWwater) which in turn is one of the four founder members of the Women for Water Partnership (WfWp) based in the Hague, Netherlands She is also the Steering Committee member in for Communication and Advocacy for the WfWP. Selected a member of the first GWP Steering Committee in 1996, she held a number of positions within GWP and is currently the Chair of the Sri Lanka Water Partnership. She is Co Chair of the Gender expert group for the UNESCO World Water Development Report and a member of the IWA Women in Water Group. After presenting the first paper on gender and water in 1996, she has been involved in Stockholm Water Week as presenter, panel member and Chair.
She has been active in all World Water Fora since Marrakesh and was Co-Topic Coordinator for Theme 6 Education Knowledge, Management and Capacity development for the World Water Forum 5 held in Istanbul in 2009. She was also focal point for the Preparatory Conference of Women and Water for the Istanbul Forum and as such was instrumental in setting up the Turkish Women and Water Alliance in Istanbul in January 2009 and Co Chair for the Women Pre Conference in the recently concluded World Water Forum in Marseilles.
Kusum Athukorala engages in a range of activities including research, community level training and sensitization programs allied to ground level issues in Sri Lanka. She was appointed a Trustee of the National Community Water Trust, Sri Lanka in 2012 in recognition of her work in community water. Nationally and regionally she works on issues related to water and society with special emphasis on empowerment of women in the water sector. Functioning as a consultant and resource person with a range of national and international organizations, she believes that use of media are essential for profiling water issues and has produced documentary films in Sri Lanka and abroad on water issues. She believes that water must be made everybodys’ business and has promoted water information being made for available in national languages in Sri Lanka. She has published nationally and internationally and her research studies include areas as diverse as water education, sanitation, climate change, water governance, river sand mining, water transfers out of agriculture and water pollution. Her recent concerns include supporting and mentoring young water professionals.
A strong believer in good field research and emphasizing need to ground policy in the field reality, she was involved in pioneering work on gender and irrigation in Sri Lanka. Her first field experience as a young graduate which involved living in a rural community in Sri Lanka and using a doorless toilet has left her with a lasting need to promote women’s dignity in the WATSAN sector.