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Water & Sanitation

Women Are Weak When They Are Amongst Men’: Women’s Participation in Rural Water Committees in South Africa

Citation:

Hemson, David. 2002. “‘Women Are Weak When They Are Amongst Men’: Women’s Participation in Rural Water Committees in South Africa.” Agenda: Empowering Women For Gender Equity 52: 24–32.

Author: David Hemson

Annotation:

In this article, Hemson uses existing quantitative studies on water development projects in South Africa to formulate a series of conclusions on the potential for water management to function as a mechanism for the empowerment of women. He argues that one of the primary reasons for the failure of some water projects is the exclusion of women from leadership roles and meaningful participation (despite the fact that it is women’s lives that are most directly affected by changes in water policy). When women are included in these committees, they are often present as a token of gender inclusion (to comply with new government requirements), they are never given substantive leadership roles, and they rarely verbally participate. Even in communities where prevalent male migration has given women greater decision-making responsibilities, there is a tendency towards “deferred participation,” meaning that women postpone decision-making out of psychological deference to the absent male. Hemson concludes with a series of recommendations for improving women’s participation in water management, including provision of / access to adult education, gender-sensitivity training, and technical training.

Quotes:

“This [the transformation of water provision into a public and political issue] has produced a marked divergence between domestic responsibilities and the public administration of water. While women have responsibility for family health and access to water, both menial and domestic issues, water projects are prestigious and public; this has led to the domination by men who feel most capable in this sphere.Thus women remain responsible for domestic water supply but without the power to ensure that delivery is effective and continuous.” (30)

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2002

Women, Equity, and Household Water Management in the Valley of Mexico

Citation:

Ennis-McMillan, Michael C. 2005. “Women, Equity, and Household Water Management in the Valley of Mexico.” In Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, edited by Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico, 137-153. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author: Michael C. Ennis-McMillan

Annotation:

Quotes:

“Because women often have the primary responsibility for managing crucial household resources, their increasing role outside the household in accessing such resources indicates how social change and power struggles over household consumption spill over into social relations outside the domestic sphere.” (139)

“As development specialists explore how to incorporate women into water management, it is critical to realize that installing piped water systems involves more than simply applying engineering principles and transferring new technology. Water control systems are also cultural systems that emerge from particular histories, meanings, and practices.” (139)

“Although women’s status is changing, both men and women often commented that women’s participation in local water management makes sense because of, and not despite, traditional gender norms and expectations. Women have extended their traditional roles as managers of water in the household to community water management…” (151)

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Gender, Gender Roles, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Mexico

Year: 2005

Irrigation Management, the Participatory Approach, and Equity in an Andean Community

Citation:

Delgado, Juana Rosa Vera. 2005. “Irrigation Management, the Participatory Approach, and Equity in an Andean Community.” In Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, edited by Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico, 109-122. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author: Juana Rosa Vera Delgado

Annotation:

Quotes:

“The women of Llullucha were clearly not passive victims of the prevailing rules and discourses that prevented their access to land, water, or knowledge. They actively resisted, building their agency to take advantage of even the smallest openings… They proved that women can participate in an integrated water management project and that water management is not the exclusive realm of engineers or men, despite the initial bias of the IMA water management project.” (116)

“When we researched the participation of Llullucha women in the emerging water user organization, we found that it was not even considered by the comuneros or by the engineers. There was nothing regarding how women might be able to participate in decision making or occupy a position of authority. As a result, only men discussed then decided the requirements for accessing water, and they did so according to their prevailing, typically patriarchal, ideology… Evidence from around the world shows when a social organization for managing a water system is formalized, women become invisible at the formal level of participation.” (120)

“The extent to which gender can be integrated with water management policies does not depend only on the resoluteness of technicians in deconstructing their ideology regarding womanhood or manhood and their willingness to cross boundaries. It also depends on the willingness and capability of authorities and institutions to listen, integrate, and promote gender equity in all types of social action.” (122)

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equity, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Bolivia

Year: 2005

The Invisible Water Managers

Citation:

Dankelman, Irene, and Joan Davidson. 1988. “The Invisible Water Managers.” In Women and Environment in the Third World, 29–41. London: Earthscan Publications Limited.

Authors: Irene Dankelman, Joan Davidson

Annotation:

This chapter evaluates the UN’s International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1982-1992) by focussing specific attention on how successfully-- in light of structural, cultural, and gender-based discrimination-- limitations on women’s access to quality water supplies have been addressed. Dankelman and Davidson highlight a reality that subsequent academics use as the foundation of their argument: women already do a great deal to manage water on a daily basis when they make decisions on how to collect and transport, how different water sources of varying qualities should be used for different purposes, and how to purify drinking water. The authors use case studies from Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Brazil to illustrate how over centuries of performing these informal water management tasks, women have built up substantial knowledge of water, health, and sanitation that is passed on through generational exchanges and that must be acknowledged if improvements to water supplies are to be successful.

Topics: Gender, Women, Health, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, International Organizations Regions: Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Americas, South America Countries: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Kenya

Year: 1988

Incentives and Informal Institutions: Gender and the Management of Water

Citation:

Cleaver, Frances. 1998. “Incentives and Informal Institutions: Gender and the Management of Water.” Agriculture and Human Values 15 (4): 347–60.

Author: Frances Cleaver

Abstract:

In this paper I consider the contribution that theories about common property resource management and policies relating to participation can make to our understanding of communal water resource management. Common to theoretical and policy approaches are the ideas that incentives are important in defining the problem of collective action and that institutions apparently offer a solution to it. The gendered dynamics of incentives and institutions are explored. This paper briefly outlines theoretical approaches to institutions as solutions to collective action problems and indicates the linkages with policies regarding participation in water resource management. It suggests that, whilst offering considerable insights, such approaches are limited and may result in policy prescriptions that do little to involve or empower women. In particular, I argue that the modeling of incentives is impoverished in its economism and its abstraction of the individual from a life world. I suggest that the conceptualization of institutions is primarily an organizational one, which, whilst alluding to the role of norms, practices, and conventions, focuses primarily on formal manifestations of collective action; contracts, committees, and meetings. Where women’s participation is concerned, I illustrate that incentives to cooperate may be devised from reproductive concerns and the minor exigencies of daily life (as well as from productive concerns) and that alternative models of institutions may better reflect the way in which decisions are made and implemented within a social context.

Keywords: incentives, informal institutions, policy and organizations

Annotation:

Using ethnographic case study of rural Zimbabwean villages, Cleaver argues that current institutional approaches to involving women in water resource management are flawed in that they prioritize formal organizations over informal institutions. Formal water-management organizations, even when they deliberately include women in decision-making processes, are less effective than informal social institutions at reflecting the complex concerns of women in a community and are further often designed in a such as way as to be overly economized and reductionist and to exclude those who stand to gain the most from them (i.e.: poor women). The construction of these new formal institutions ignores pre-existing informal networking-based water management systems that tend to be coordinated by women and to be oriented around deeply ingrained customs of conflict avoidance, approximate compliance, and minimal intervention. Furthermore, common incentive models for water use and management are fundamentally erroneous in their reliance on oversimplified divisions between “domestic” and “productive” water use at the household level and on assumptions about women’s preferences.

Quotes:

“Perceptions and priorities in relation to different [water] sources change seasonally, according to the demands placed on users by agricultural activities and environmental conditions. These complexities, the changeability of preferences over time and the use of multiple sources, would make it difficult to construct a simple hierarchy of preferences… The principle of the prime importance of time saving as an incentive for women can then be qualified by the importance of other considerations arising from domestic concerns...The gendered division of labor is not static but shifting and negotiable as new income generating-opportunities through the sale of crops open up and old ones, through employment, decline.” (351)

“...There is little evidence that participation on committees is either empowering to women or necessarily efficient in terms of water resource management… Appointing women to committees may just be reinforcing their role as “housekeepers” of the water sources rather than enhancing their decision making capacities.” (354)

“A static view of gender interests, household priorities, and local level institutional capacity is of little use when planning interventions. Rather, we need to recognize the shifting and changing priorities of individuals and households over time, that individual men and women have complex social identities, and that both individual and collective action are likely to be shaped by both economically “rational” incentives and socially embedded motivations.” (358)

Topics: Civil Society, Economies, Economic Inequality, Gender, Women, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Zimbabwe

Year: 1998

Women at the Helm of Irrigated Agriculture in Mexico: The Other Side of Male Migration

Citation:

Buechler, Stephanie. 2005. “Women at the Helm of Irrigated Agriculture in Mexico: The Other Side of Male Migration.” In Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, edited by Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico, 170-189. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author: Stephanie Buechler

Annotation:

This chapter explores the impact that mass male migration has on women’s role as water managers, specifically as pertains to groundwater-sourced irrigation. From interviews with women in rural Mexican communities, Buechler finds that with the absence of a male in the household, timing of irrigation services became a crucial factor; nighttime irrigation excludes women because of safety concerns, limited child care access, and societal notions of impropriety (women who go into the fields at night are suspected of carrying out sexual liaisons). Other challenges facing women include perceptions of irrigation as a male activity, stigma against women drivers, and minimal participation in water management bodies (most often as a function of land ownership requirements). The initial step to addressing any of these, Buechler concludes, is to make the rapidly growing numbers of women irrigators visible to their communities and, more importantly, to decision-making water management bodies.

Quotes:

“When women take charge of the land, they often irrigate or supervise others themselves, which runs counter to prevailing views on gender divisions of labor that irrigation is men’s work and that it is physically taxing.” (171)

“They [women] irrigate by themselves or supervise male irrigators despite attitudes in and outside of their communities that this is not women’s work. They know how to manage water due to their vast experience with agricultural work. Even though they often manage water alone, women continue to be viewed as mere helpers to a male farmer.” (187)

Topics: Agriculture, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Mexico

Year: 2005

Water and Gender: The Unexpected Connection That Really Matters

Citation:

Bennett, Vivienne, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and Maria Nieves Rico. 2008. “Water and Gender: The Unexpected Connection That Really Matters.” Journal of International Affairs 61 (2): 107–25.

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

Annotation:

Summary:
“This article explains the connection between water and gender for household use as well as in the context of irrigation, focusing on poor urban women, peasants and indigenous women. It then examines the failures of water policy, including privatization, to embrace a gendered perspective and the failures of gender policy in addressing water issues. Throughout, we provide stories that show how women in Latin America have overcome or circumvented these failures to improve water management in ways that improve their daily lives” (Bennett et al. 2008, 109).
 
Annotation:
This article complements the authors’ 2005 book Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America by furthering the investigation of the gendered impacts of water management with examples from Latin America. The authors argue that the connection needs to be made between gender and water not just in domestic water usage, but also in irrigation and agriculture (a space in which women’s roles are often overlooked). For, in constructing water development policies that are theoretically “gender-neutral,” development authorities overlook the fact that the outcomes of these policies are almost always gender-differentiated. This has become especially true in recent years as male urban migration has placed increasing numbers of women in positions of primary responsibility for the household’s agricultural operations, including irrigation management. Excluding women from water management perpetuates patriarchal power imbalances, endangers the well-being of household members (especially in the absence of a male head), and omits valuable perspectives on sustainability and community water access. Bennett et al conclude that the success of measures to improve water management practices is dependent on understanding the community, facilitating active participation from both men and women, and fostering equitable distribution of water resources-- all with an explicit acknowledgement of cultural gender roles. 
 
Quotes:
“Women already know about water management. Why is this powerful? If women already know about water management, then their knowledge, experiences and priorities will enrich policy and planning in the water sector. Bringing in women’s knowledge, experiences and priorities regarding water use alongside men’s is to implement a gendered perspective in water management. Failing to do so is to lose valuable knowledge that could have led to more effective water management.” (109)
 
“A gender division of labor that defines agriculture as a male occupation and women primarily as housewives, irrespective of their contribution to family agriculture, characterizes many Latin American countries, and has lead to great distortions in water management planning because women’s knowledge, experience, wisdom and needs with regards to water are left out of the planning process.” (111)
 
“When irrigation is identified as a typically male domain, then for women to claim water rights for irrigation explicitly challenges the norm and this means challenging the power and ability of their husbands to properly carry out their manly roles-- and doing so comes at high social costs.” (112)
 
“Control over water thus both depends on and accompanies control over other resources and information. Participation of women in water users’ organizations for irrigation not only improves women’s access to and control over irrigation but also may contribute to wider goals of women’s empowerment. Exclusion of women from water users’ organizations can be interpreted as denying them their economic rights and complete citizenship.” (114)
 
“The under-representation of women and their indirect participation not only destroys the democratic character of decisionmaking but also may negatively affect the responsiveness of organizations to the needs of women. It it more than just a symptom of gender inequality-- it is one of the factors that perpetuate it.” (115)
 
“Making the water world more habitable for women requires changes at many different levels and in many different arenas. It requires changing divisions of labor that currently allocate water responsibilities to women without granting them the associated rights, and it requires changing existing routines of public decisionmaking to allow women to participate.... It also requires changing the terms of water policy discussions, because reducing the gender gap in control over water is not just a direct struggle over water resources but is also—and more importantly—a struggle over the ways in which water needs are defined. ...Creating legitimate discursive, legal and organizational spaces for women to articulate and defend their water interests means that deeply embedded cultural and normative associations between water and masculinity need to be challenged.” (123)

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Americas, Central America, South America

Year: 2008

Toward a Broader Perspective

Citation:

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

Annotation:

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.

Quotes:

“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

Women and Water in the Northern Ecuadorian Andes

Citation:

Bastidas, Elena P. 2005. “Women and Water in the Northern Ecuadorian Andes,” In Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, edited by Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico, 155-169. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author: Elena P. Bastidas

Annotation:

Quotes:

“This case study shows that participation of women in user groups and WUA meetings is low (9 percent). A major reason for this low participation is the cultural barriers women face when they are with men, which inhibit their participation. The study demonstrates the importance of household composition and family life cycle as factors influencing the opportunities and challenges that shape women’s participation in rural water management. In this case, a gender analysis highlights not only that men and women have varying priorities regarding water, but also that different women have different priorities regarding water because of their different roles and responsibilities, which are not static but change over time.” (169)

“One condition for ensuring that women’s voices are heard and that a higher degree of female participation is achieved in the WUAs is recognizing women as resource user and managers. The study demonstrates the crucial role of women in the provision of water for domestic use as well as their important role in irrigated agriculture.” (169)

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Ecuador

Year: 2005

Participatory Management: Who Participates

Citation:

Athukorala, Kusum, and Margreet Zwarteveen. 1994. “Participatory Management: Who Participates.” Economic Review 20 (6): 22–5.

Authors: Kusum Athukorala, Margreet Zwarteveen

Abstract:

The Gender Program of the International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI) is currently undertaking a study which examines, among other things, some of the constraints to female participation in Farmer Organizations. To this end, IIMl's Gender Program is conducting detailed field studies in three sites - Rajangane, Mahaweli System H and Gampola Raja Ela- which were chosen to include the three Participatory Management  Programs which are currently being implemented in Sri Lanka: Management of Irrigation Schemes (MANIS), Integrated Management of Major Irrigation Schemes (INMAS) and Mahaweli. Some first findings of these studies will be presented here.

The success of all three Participatory Management Programs in Sri Lanka stands or falls with the development of strong and competent Farmer Organizations (FOs). FOs are expected to assume part of the responsibilities and costs of operating and maintaining irrigation infrastructures, in return for which they should get a better, more reliable and more equitable access to irrigation water. The question this brief article aims to address is to what extent strong FOs, which represent the needs and interests of the main end users of irrigation services, can be expected to emerge when women are inadvertently excluded from participation.

Annotation:

Quotes:

“The fact that men and women have distinct responsibilities with respect to irrigated agriculture implies that women have specific knowledge about irrigated agriculture and specific needs with respect to irrigation. This in itself would justify some sort of female involvement in FOs, unless of course men do adequately represent women's concerns at meetings. The field data do not support such a hypothesis. Although there are some farming couples who make most of the farming decisions together, in many households men and women have different objectives and perspectives.” (23)

“Irrigation, irrigated agriculture and irrigation management tend to be thought of as all male affairs. The study shows that this is an inaccurate perception of the reality in irrigation systems. Because of their high involvement in field activities as well as decisionmaking, women as well as men can and should be considered an interest group in irrigation systems.” (25)

Topics: Agriculture, Civil Society, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, International Organizations Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 1994

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