Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

Water & Sanitation

Lording It over the Goddess: Water, Gender, and Human-Environmental Relations


Strang, Veronica. 2015. “Lording It over the Goddess: Water, Gender, and Human-Environmental Relations.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 30 (1): 85–109.

Author: Veronica Strang


Focusing on human engagements with water, this article steps back from specifically cultural or historical contexts in order to trace the larger patterns of social, religious, and technological change that have transformed most societies’ relationships with their environments. It examines transitions from totemic “nature religions” to male-dominated and hierarchical belief systems, and considers how these intersected with shifts to settlement and agriculture, differentiated gender roles, and stratified socio- political arrangements. With developments in farming, enlarging societies moved from egalitarian partnerships with other species and ecosystems to more directive interactions. Irrigation channeled water into human interests. Initially seen as embodying female principles, it became the gift of male religious beings. From being a common good, it became subject to male property rights. Long understood as the substance of social and spiritual regeneration, it was reframed as an economic “asset.” Observing these transformations, the article also considers long-term contraflows: indigenous struggles; subaltern religions; and environmentalist and feminist challenges to sociopolitical inequalities. 


The article begins by tracing the transformation of societies from nature religions, which embodied more egalitarian principles, to an increasingly male-dominated and hierarchical belief system. By studying the history of water one is able to see such a transition as water, considered the embodiment of female principles, came to be under male ownership, a signal of shifting gender roles. The author examines the history of water and its representation in ancient cultures and religions, specifically the feminization of the source. A shift in human-environmental relations took place that focused on meeting human needs and divine purposes, thus personal privatized ownership of water and water resources developed. Parallels between the exploitation of nature, specifically water resources, and the subordination of women were argued. The author concludes by mentioning that, although counter movements have emerged in recent years, patterns of exploitation and subordination need to be considered in order for gender roles in water resource management to improve. 

Topics: Development, Environment, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equality/Inequality, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Religion, Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2015

Gender Disparities in Water Resource Management Projects in Njoro Sub-County, Kenya


Wambu, Charles K., and Moses Kindiki. 2015. “Gender Disparities in Water Resource Management Projects in Njoro Sub-County, Kenya.” International Journal of Social Science Studies 3 (2): 123–29. doi: 10.11114/ijsss.v3i2.703.

Authors: Charles K. Wambu, Moses Kindiki


Gender disparities are of major concern, in water resources management because men and women play different roles and have different rights on water usage and it is important to take in account the interest of both genders into account. Njoro Sub-county is currently facing a serious problem of water scarcity as a result of several factors such as poor management, loss of forest cover, climatic variability, population increase, and limited endowment of the resource. Water being an economic good and a cost attached to its development, distribution, operation and maintenance there has been gender disparity in its management. Women are responsible for multiple uses of water resources and principal decision-makers regarding domestic uses and sharing responsibility with men for productive uses. However men often control this resource and make major decisions related to location and type of facilities available hence the need to investigate why women despite their vital stake in water affairs, they are frequently overlooked and under-represented in water policy decisions and in water projects committees. The argument in this paper is that gender disparities may have resulted in overexploitation and mismanagement of water resources. 

Keywords: gender disparities, water resource management, gender, equity


This paper analyzes the gendered factors to the planning and implementation of water resource projects and analyzed gender contribution in co-ordination and operation of water resource projects. The study paid specific attention to water management at the household level in the Njoro-Sub county of Kenya. While the women in the community played the largest role in household water collection and usage, men had the most say over water rights and distribution. The study found that most women in the community were barred from the water management and planning process due to cultural customs and traditional gender roles. Sustainable water management projects were not attained, leading to household water shortages that place greater burdens on women. The study concludes with recommendations on including women in water projects due to their extensive knowledge of water resources, along with incorporating women’s rights initiatives that respect the traditional expectations of the community. 

Topics: Development, Economies, Economic Inequality, Environment, Climate Change, Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Discourses, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya

Year: 2015

Gender Issues in Water and Sanitation Programmes : Lessons from India


Cronin, Aidan A., Pradeep K. Mehta, and Anjal Prakash, eds. 2015. Gender Issues in Water and Sanitation Programmes : Lessons from India. New Delhi, IND: Sage Publications Pvt. Ltd. 

Authors: Aidan A. Cronin, Pradeep K. Mehta, Anjal Prakash


This book fills the gaps in conceptual knowledge related to gender outcomes in water and sanitation issues. It illustrates how to get the desired gender outcomes in WASH programs by providing real-life case studies from different regions of India. The first section focuses on the Gender and WASH problem, forming a background for the case studies in India. Ways of incorporating gender dimensions in water management and in water and sanitation agendas in India are heavily explored here. The second section provides a contextual understanding of gender and WASH in India through basic facts, statistics, and anecdotes. The final section discusses women’s participation in the sanitation sector with a focus on developing innovative ways in which women’s role and participation can be up scaled. Through the case studies, the authors argue that the identification of vulnerable households can help in devising systems to reduce the hardships faced by women. Water governance was found to be limiting for women when the existing social dynamics of the region were not addressed. Current training programs of the Government of India were found to lack in having an approach to gender and equity in WASH. The book concludes by offering further thoughts on the “gender how?” question, while providing suggestions for further policy initiatives on gender in WASH. Such suggestions are highly centered on further research in the gender and hygiene field. 

Topics: Development, Economies, Economic Inequality, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Equity, Health, Households, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: India

Year: 2015

Gender in Inter-State Water Conflicts


Von Lossow, Tobias. 2015. “Gender in Inter-State Water Conflicts.” Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice 27 (2): 196–201. 

Author: Tobias Von Lossow

Topics: Environment, Climate Change, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Analysis, Femininity/ies, Gender Mainstreaming, Humanitarian Assistance, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation

Year: 2015

Feminist Solidarity? Women’s Engagement in Politics and the Implications for Water Management in the Darjeeling Himalaya


Joshi, Deepa. 2014. “Feminist Solidarity? Women’s Engagement in Politics and the Implications for Water Management in the Darjeeling Himalaya.” Mountain Research and Development 34 (3): 243–54. doi: 10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D13-00097.1. 

Author: Deepa Joshi


This article explores the motivations of a diverse group of women in the Himalayan region of Darjeeling district in India to engage (or not) in politics, and discusses how women, like men, are vulnerable to power and politics. In Darjeeling, class, ethnicity, and other divides are accentuated by unresolved, decades-long identity based political conflicts that also obscure practical everyday needs and challenges. This defines which women engage in the political domain and, in the dominantly patriarchal political space, how these women relate to the region’s enduring water challenges. In such a setting, it would be ideal to wish for solidarity among women that would overcome class and ethnic divisions and individual political aspirations, making space for gendering political causes and practical challenges. Such solidarity would be especially pertinent in the Eastern Himalaya, given the region’s projected climate vulnerability and fragile democracy. However, reality is far removed from development discourse and policy which suggests an assumed camaraderie among mountain women: an imagined empathy and solidarity in relation both to environmental causes and concerns and the practice of equitable power and politics. In looking at how a diverse group of women in varying positions of power and powerlessness in Darjeeling District are unable, reluctant, or simply uninterested in addressing critical water injustices experienced by some, this paper calls for retrospection on both gender-environment myths and gender-politics fictions. 

Keywords: gender, women, identity, environment, water, politics, feminism, solidarity, Darjeeling


This article explores the realities surrounding women, political conflicts, and injustices in the Darjeeling district of the Eastern Himalaya. It explores the two stereotypes placed on women: that they are more egalitarian and support policies promoting equality, and that women have an inherent link and concern for nature. The author studied a diverse group of women who chose to engage in political discussion formally and informally. Joshi found contrary to popular belief that most women were unwilling to address the complexity of water injustices, having been affected by the same political constraints as men. The stereotype of women as sharing an inherent relationship with the environment is still prominent in policy that marginalizes women. The case study of the Himalayas demonstrates that women are not passive victims of change, especially in the case of climate change adaptation. The issue of water scarcity in the Darjeeling district is due to hydrogeological, financial, and sociopolitical constraints. Women in positions of power were found to not prioritize gender and environmental issues over personal interests. The paper concludes with a recommendation to broaden one’s understanding and defining of gender. 

Topics: Class, Development, Environment, Climate Change, Ethnicity, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Political Participation Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2014

Contested Terrain: Oxfam, Gender, and the Aftermath of War


Williams, Suzanne. 2001. “Contested Terrain: Oxfam, Gender, and the Aftermath of War.” Gender and Development 9 (3): 19-28.

Author: Suzanne Williams


In this paper I explore the terrain of the international NGO (INGO) - in this case Oxfam GB - and some of its difficulties in integrating gender equity goals in the institutional structures and policies which govern its activities in conflict and its aftermath. I look at terrain that is divided into areas that are treated very differently. These are, on one hand, the field of humanitarian interventions in the throes of an emergency, and on the other, the 'non-conflict' field of reconstruction and development. Historically, these two fields of activity have been governed by very different ways of thinking and acting, often in conflict with each other. Gender analysis and gender-sensitive programming are central to these differences, and essential tools in the attempts to overcome them. In Oxfam GB at present, the differences in approaches to gender equity in these two territories are acknowledged, if not routinely addressed; but the importance of addressing gender equity in order to overcome some of these differences, is more complicated and controversial.

Topics: Development, Gender, Women, Men, Gender Analysis, Gender Balance, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Health, Humanitarian Assistance, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, NGOs Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe Countries: Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, United Kingdom

Year: 2001

Gender and Resource Co-Management in Northern Canada


Natcher, David C. 2013. “Gender and Resource Co-Management in Northern Canada.” Arctic 66 (2): 218-21.

Author: David C. Natcher


An inventory of the nominal representation of men and women on northern co-management boards in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut identified a total of 34 co-management boards. Of their total of 210 members, 176 (84%) were males and 34 (16%) were females. Nine boards were composed exclusively of men, and 18 boards had only a single female representative. The land and resource management regimes created through the settlement of comprehensive land claims have afforded Aboriginal governments equitable representation in co-management but have not promoted gender equity in board membership.

Topics: Development, Environment, Ethnicity, Extractive Industries, Gender, Gender Balance, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Infrastructure, Energy, Water & Sanitation, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Canada

Year: 2013

Review of the Gender Dimensions of Land-Based Conflict in the Pacific


Nelson, Gayle. 2008. Review of the Gender Dimensions of Land-Based Conflict in the Pacific. Suva, Fiji: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Land Management and Conflict Minimisation.

Author: Gayle Nelson

Topics: Armed Conflict, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Development, Environment, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Rights, Land Rights

Year: 2008

Losing Ground - Women and Agriculture on Sudan’s Irrigated Schemes: Lessons from a Blue Nile Village


Bernal, Victoria. 1988. “Losing Ground - Women and Agriculture on Sudan’s Irrigated Schemes: Lessons from a Blue Nile Village.” In Agriculture, Women and Land - The African Experience, edited by Jean Davison, 131-56. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Author: Victoria Bernal

Topics: Agriculture, Gender, Women, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Political Economies Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Sudan

Year: 1988

Women’s Voices on the Executive Council: Popular Organizations and Resource Battles in Bolivia and Ecuador


Dosh, P., N. Kligerman, and J. Lerager. 2010. “Women’s Voices on the Executive Council: Popular Organizations and Resource Battles in Bolivia and Ecuador.” Latin American Perspectives 37 (4): 214–37. doi:10.1177/0094582X10372514.

Authors: P. Dosh, N. Kligerman, J. Lerager


In the 2000s, Bolivia and Ecuador were marked by battles over natural resources in which mass mobilizations challenged the neoliberal privatization of resources such as water and natural gas. In El Alto and Quito, these mobilizations boosted the public standing of women whose frontline militancy helped confront privatization and build momentum for the election of women to top leadership. Although gender discrimination persisted, women’s activism in these resource battles demonstrated to men their capacity to lead in arenas other than health, family, and education. In the wake of these conflicts, variations in women’s voice—the power to speak, set agendas, and dictate discourse—on the executive councils of popular organizations prove to be determined by societal sexism, leadership and training opportunities for women, the presence of more women on the executive council, the status of the council seats won by women, and the particular organization’s decision-making process.

Keywords: Bolivia, Ecuador, women, natural resources, social movements


  • Examines five natural resource protest movements and compares the relative gains made by women participating in each.


“To explain variations in women’s voice, our comparative analysis focuses on five explanatory factors: societal sexism, leadership and training opportunities, change in presence, change in status, and decision-making process.” (231)

Topics: Civil Society, Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Governance, Infrastructure, Energy, Water & Sanitation, NGOs, Political Economies, Political Participation, Privatization Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Bolivia, Ecuador

Year: 2010


© 2020 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at

Subscribe to RSS - Water & Sanitation