Water as a Source of Equity and Empowerment in Costa Rica


Aguilar, Lorena. 2005. “Water as a Source of Equity and Empowerment in Costa Rica.” In Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, edited by Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico, 123-134. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author: Lorena Aguilar


This chapter reflects Aguilar’s ethnographic study on community participation water management projects in Heredia Province, Costa Rica. Aguilar details the ways in which her project team addressed entrenched masculinities and gender inequities at every stage of the development process and how they ultimately found that training both men and women in the technical aspects of water infrastructure creation left a profound impact on gender relations in the community. For development projects to be successful, Aguilar argues, they must pursue equitable and participatory gender relations: a complex goal that Aguilar and her team achieved by training men and women together as water resource “facilitators”-- thus training both parties not only in the technical side of water management, but in leadership skills such as decision-making and organization strategies.


“Because of the historical subordination suffered by women, they are often not taken into account and can often feel they have no right to an opinion or to express their needs or desires. This means it is critical to create mechanisms and to offer training that allows women to strengthen their self-esteem, increase their possibilities for participating, and ensure that their contributions and work are valued. This facilitates a process where both women and men make decisions and contribute ideas, while recognizing and appropriating their own reality.” (125)

“The process of training communal facilitators fulfilled its main purpose, as it successfully left people in the community responsible for the “technical” implementation of the project. But the training of both male and female facilitators transcended the technical aspects, changing their relationships with their community and families, as women as well as men began to be respected by other community members. Today, many of them are considered community leaders.” (131)

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Costa Rica

Year: 2005

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