ISF's newest Woman of Influence - Professor Juliet Willetts
The Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence aims to identify women championing change in business and society. ISF is proud to see Professor Juliet Willetts join many dedicated and successful women recognised in this year's awards. Especially as she joins three other 100 Women of Influence alumni from ISF - Distinguished Professor Cynthia Mitchell, Dr. Dana Cordell and Research Associate Nicky Ison.
Life without clean water or toilets – it’s hard to imagine. Yet, many countries still lack both.
This reality particularly affects women, who spend hours walking to collect water from wells and caring for the ill, but are prevented from participating in decision-making by their patriarchal culture.
Since 2009, Australian-funded programs have brought clean water and sanitation to 5.98 million people in parts of Asia, the Pacific, and Africa for the first time.
Using advocacy, evidence, and program design, Professor Juliet Willetts played a crucial role in making this happen.
Juliet is an international development researcher, expert advisor, and mentor dedicated to influencing policy and action to alleviate poverty.
Over the last 12 years, together with other partners, she has been instrumental in eliciting major government commitments to critical aid projects, totalling over many hundreds of million dollars in value.
She has also made outstanding contributions to addressing gender equality and the role of civil society, as an expert in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
One WASH fund alone established many thousands of community committees in multiple Asian, African and Pacific countries, with no less than 65 percent of these committees achieving the ideal and previously unimaginable target of 50 percent female membership - and reporting associated changes in gender dynamics and increase in women’s voice.
Beginning with two years of voluntary aid work, Professor Willetts' commitment to alleviating poverty now accommodates research, advocacy, and management alongside motherhood.
As the Director of International Development Research at ISF, Juliet has managed to succeed in the traditionally male-dominated academia, water and sanitation fields, building her profile as a highly respected international leader and collaborator.
Over the last three years alone, she has led more than 25 projects in 15 countries, encompassing social sciences, engineering and economics, and combatting such fundamental injustices as the systematic exclusion of the poor from piped water services in Vietnam.
She is widely published, with more than 55 peer-reviewed papers, seven book chapters, and more than 80 research reports including industry reports and practical guidance materials.
Juliet has also established a team of high-quality researchers at ISF, to support and inform the work of major development institutions such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Health Organisation (WHO), UN organisations, non-governmental organisations, and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Professor Willetts actively supports and mentors women towards future leadership roles in sustainable development, leading a research team comprising many women.
She also supervises several promising doctoral students, one of whom, Freya Mills, is already making her own mark in urban sanitation internationally.
Professor Willetts' globally recognised expertise has contributed to thought leadership at the highest level. Juliet was commissioned by the Australian Government to write a framing paper on gender equality in the water sector. Working together with ISF Research Principal Melita Grant, who lead-authored this paper, it has ensured that the High-level Panel on Water (HLPW), comprising the heads of 10 countries, including Australia – which made no mention of women or gender in its original documentation – now clearly recognises the issues facing women, and the focused attention they require.
Using her vision and dedication, Professor Juliet Willetts is making a mark on the global sustainability stage, championing a cause that not only saves and improves lives, but also empowers women to help determine their own destinies.