Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

A poster with the event title and a cartoon graphic of women harvesting.



A Path Forward for Women, Water, Peace and Security – Elevating Central Asian Voices from across the Women in Water Diplomacy Network
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Location Note

1512 International Affairs Building
420 W 118th Street, 15th floor

Please join the Women in Water Diplomacy Network and the Harriman Institute for a panel discussion A Path Forward for Women, Water, Peace and Security – Elevating Central Asian voices from across the Women in Water Diplomacy Network. Moderated by Justin Burke. Co-sponsored by Columbia Water Center and Climate School Earth Network.

[Read Eurasianet’s coverage of the event, 3/22/23]

From March 22-24, 2023 the United Nations will convene the first UN Water Conference in 50 years. This important Conference will bring thousands of water champions to New York City to advanced shared goals to address the critical state of global freshwater resources. Despite long efforts to foster inclusive policy dialogue spaces, many critical global water and climate dialogues retain rigid gender barriers negatively impacting women’s equal participation and influence. Despite these persistent barriers, members of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network will be participating throughout the UN Water Conference with focus on elevating a diversity of perspectives to impact the trajectory of water and peace related policy dialogues at this seminal global event. This event sponsored by the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, will feature women water experts engaged in the Women in Water Diplomacy Network from across Central Asia and Afghanistan in an effort to foster dialogue and knowledge sharing with the Columbia University community.

The Women in Water Diplomacy Network consists of members of the Women in Water Diplomacy Network in the Nile (initiated in 2017), the Women in Water Management Network in Central Asia and Afghanistan (initiated in 2021) as well as the supporters of both networks and representatives of newly developing basin communities in Africa and the Americas including the Zambezi River Basin Commission (ZAMCOM), the Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM), the Orange-Senqu River Basin Commission (ORASECOM) and the (US Canada) International Joint Commission (IJC). The Networks include representatives of the Ministries of Water and Foreign Affairs or other related ministries as well as informal influential intermediaries such as academics and civil society leaders from dozens of countries on the frontlines of water insecurity including Afghanistan, Angola, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, United States, Uzbekistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Aziza Sharofova Khamza kizi (Uzbekistan) is a Chief Expert of the Center for State Ecological Expertise of the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Ecology and Environmental Protection. She was born in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), in a family of farmers. After graduating from a secondary school in 2008, she entered the Tashkent Financial and Economic College at the Faculty of Accounting and Audit, and successfully completed it in 2011 (secondary special education with a degree in accounting and economics). She also graduated Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Melioration at the Faculty of Hydromelioration in the direction of Ecology and Environmental Protection, in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering (in water management).
Cholpon Aitakhunova (Kyrgyzstan) is a Research Fellow at Collective Leadership Institute under the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s International Climate Protection Fellowship. She is carrying out her research at the interface of water, climate, and security in Central Asia with a special focus on collective leadership approaches. She leads Central Asia Youth for Water (CAY4W) in her role of regional co-coordinator for Central Asia and Afghanistan. The network’s mission is empowerment of a new generation of water leaders to work on peaceful and sustainable development through transboundary water cooperation. Through a journey of around 5 years across different sectors (state, civil society, academia) and between various levels (national to international) Cholpon got well-acquainted with climate and water governance topics, and for more than a decade now she has been involved in youth empowerment in Kyrgyzstan and beyond. She strongly believes that in the face of the multi-layered crisis the world is confronting today it is only through quality dialogue and collaboration that we can bring transformative change. ‘Everyone matters in water action, everyone can learn how to collaborate.’
Xanani Baloyi (South Africa) serves as a Programme Officer in SIWI’s African Regional Centre and is the Gender Equality Focal Point for SIWI. Her prime work area at SIWI is supporting the implementation of development projects that seek to make more public and private capital accessible for water-related projects in Africa: advancing the financial viability of these proje  cts, attracting investment finance into the regional water sector and strengthening national IWRM governance frameworks. Xanani also contributes to the development of activities related to transboundary water governance and cooperation. Some of the projects worked on include: The Africa-EU Water Partnership Project (AEWPP), Transforming Investments in African Rainfed Agriculture (TIARA) initiative and ‘Enhancing rainfed agricultural system in the Zambezi watercourse’. She holds a Master’s degree in International Development Studies from Palacký University, Czech Republic obtained via the EU Erasmus Mundus mobility program; an Honours degree in International Relations and a Bachelor of Political Sciences in International Studies from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She has worked for GIZ, Genesis Analytics, Higher Education and Training, South Africa.
Lyazzat Syrlybayeva (Kazakhstan) has over 4 years of experience in the water sector, within the scope of her duties, she has worked in the fields of integrated water resources management, transboundary water cooperation, climate change, as well as Sustainable Development Goals. Besides this, she was a consultant in various assignments with the World Bank Group, the OSCE office in Vienna, Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Kazakh-German University (DKU) in Kazakhstan. Lyazzat has contributed to the preparation of the Country Climate Development Report (CCDR) for Kazakhstan, focusing on climate change adaptation and mitigation measures for water, rangelands and croplands. Currently, she is employed with the International Secretariat for Water (ISW) as a consultant, co-leading a regional project on youth empowerment for water in Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Meerim Seidakmatova (Kyrgyzstan) graduated with honors from the Kyrgyz National Agrarian University in 2021, specializing in ecology and environmental management. She is currently studying for her master’s degree in Integrated Water Resources Management at the Kazakh-German University. She founded the student eco-club “Young Environmentalists” at the higher student council of the Kyrgyz National Agrarian University in 2019 to increase social environmental education among students. At the same time, Meerim interned at the “Urban Initiatives” and “Rural Development Fund” public foundations, the Agency for Hydrometeorology u  nder the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic, in the Department of Environmental Monitoring (surface water and atmospheric air). She worked on research and projects on “Revival of indigenous livestock breeding. Kyrgyz horse”, “Land of snow leopards”, in the laboratory assisted in physical and chemical analysis of surface water samples, atmospheric air monitoring, including PM 2.5, freons. Since the beginning of 2021, she has served as the project coordinator for the Kyrgyzstan Youth Network CAY4W.
Dr. Saule Ospanova (Kazakhstan/ OSCE) is a Senior Environmental Affairs Advisor heading the environmental cooperation portfolio at OSCE with activities in sustainable water management, water diplomacy, disaster risk reduction, good environmental governance and hazardous waste management. She has over 20 years of experience contributing to international multi stakeholder initiatives, managing and implementing sustainability projects in different parts of the world (including Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Africa and China). Prior to joining OSCE, she worked with the International Institute for Environment and Development, the World Bank, UN and other institutions on policy development in water, climate change, energy and green economy, as well as accountability in the extractive sector. Her doctorate studies at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor focused on resource governance and environmental justice. Dr Ospanova and the OSCE are founding supporters of the Central Asia-Afghanistan Network and she will be participating in person at the UN Water Conference on behalf of OSCE.
Shohida Tulieva (Tajikistan) has a Master Degree in Social Sciences: Regional Studies – Integrated Water Resources Management, Kazakh-  German university, Almaty, Kazakhstan. Shohida is the Senior Project Officer “Basin Management” and the National Coordinator for “Gender and Social Equality” in the National project “Water Resources Management in Tajikistan”, which aims to support the “Tajikistan Water Sector Reform Program for 2016-2025”, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation in Tajikistan. Moreover, Shohida is the President of the Association “Woman and Water” of Central Asia and Afghanistan with the aim of developing networking and increasing the potential of women specialists in the water sector.  Shohida has contributed to the development of social, gender issues in water resources management, taking into account the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), development of the Basin, Sub-basin and Watershed management with focusing on the development of the “Bottom-Up” approach with 14 experience in Central Asia.
Tais Reznikova (Kazakhstan) is a water resources management specialist with an academic background in IWRM, environmental management, and policy. Currently, she is coordinating the Mentoring and Career Development Programme for Women in Water and the Blue Peace Central Asia Secretariat at the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) in Almaty, Kazakhstan and the Women in Water Management Network in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Tais has more than 7 years of experience in the implementation of projects in Central Asia in the field of basin management and planning, water diplomacy. She holds a master’s in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from Central European and Lund Universities, and in IWRM from Kazakh-German University.
Image: Radhika Gupta/SIWI

Event Video