REACH Conference a Success
The REACH programme hosted its second international conference at the end of March with a focus on improving water security for vulnerable communities. Speakers covered a wide range of water security issues from the need for better wastewater treatment to sustainable manufacturing; from how to meaningfully include communities in research to the implications of waterlogging issues for vulnerable communities; from planning for climate resilience to the challenges of achieving safe water. One important aspect of the plenaries and panels was that speakers represented governments, researchers, private sector, and civil society so that different concerns and dynamics were emphasised.
A highlight of the conference was that over half of the speakers were from the countries where REACH works: Bangladesh, Kenya, and Ethiopia. This meant that participants were able to hear on-the-ground perspectives on how REACH research is impacting policy and practice and what still needs to be done. Breakout parallel sessions each day enabled participants to delve into the detail with presenters on everything from co-producing knowledge across stakeholders to groundwater risks and rural water security.
Major themes of the conference reflected the research that REACH has conducted over its first three years, one of those themes being gender and water security. Organisers reflected this focus on inclusivity in the conference format (over half of the speakers were women and over half were from developing countries) and protocol with chairs encouraging young women to ask the first question at each session. This framework did help ensure a lively and more diverse discussion throughout the three days of the conference. Here is the inclusivity conference guide that also came out of the conference.