Toward a Broader Perspective


Bennett, Vivienne, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico. 2005. “Toward a Broader Perspective.” In Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, edited by Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico, 190-207. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Authors: Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, María Nieves Rico


This concluding chapter threads the various strands of research explored in prior chapters of the book into a comprehensive framework for thinking about the meaningful inclusion of women in water management systems. The authors argue that the neoliberal privatization model associated with globalization transforms water from a human right to an economic good. Case studies showed that the resulting marketization and inflation of water prices prompted women to mobilize and assume positions of leadership by pursuing strategies specific to their status as women and their complex relationships to water. Furthermore, the authors explore women’s participation in water projects, both in the context of management and technology transfer, and find that intentional inclusion of women in participation can have a profound ripple effect on the society as a whole. First, however, the nexus of cultural and socioeconomic barriers impeding women’s equitable participation in water management must be overcome. The authors conclude with recommendations for orienting future research and policy making decisions concerning women and water.


“In its broadest send, the participatory approach is part of the search for a more equitable distribution of the social benefits that can derive from development. It implies that citizenship must be fully exercised by both men and women, respecting the right of every citizen to be involved in matters that affect them… From a gender perspective, participation plays a central role in achieving gender equity and is not conceived of in a pragmatic or instrumentalist form but as the right of both men and women to actively influence decision making and to have a say with real power in the processes that affect them.” (197)

“When women’s informally obtained experience, abilities, and knowledge are acknowledged and valued, their participation in managing water systems is greater and the belief that irrigation work is an exclusively male activity is undermined. As the work carried out by women in managing water systems becomes more visible, women’s roles in the decision-making process of water management will grow, leading in turn to greater recognition of women’s abilities and then to broader changes in gender relations.” (199)

“Experience shows that participation cannot be mandated by decree; it is part of a profound cultural change that has to permeate all social actors. The participatory approach will never generate all its potential benefits if governments or those in charge of programs and projects only allow it when they need to comply with a legal requirement or when they have to implement the recommendations of international agencies. True participation implies embracing a process of community empowerment and adapting institutions so they can support and maintain such strategies in the long run.” (203)

“Four overarching conclusions regarding water and gender emerge from the book. First, the elimination of gender biases is a key mechanism for increasing the effectiveness and reach of water sector investments… Second, equitable planning implies that heterogenous and competing priorities for water usage must be respected… Third, investments in the water sector alter power dynamics at all levels...Fourth, and finally, for gender biases in the water sector to be eliminated there must be an enabling environment. It is not enough to talk about what is needed; formal structures must be created that move the process forward.” (207)

Topics: Citizenship, Economies, Economic Inequality, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Globalization, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, International Organizations Regions: Americas, Central America, South America

Year: 2005

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