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Understanding the women and water relationship

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Title: Understanding the women and water relationship


1
Understanding the women and water relationship
  • Seema Kulkarni
  • SOPPECOM, Pune, India

2
  • Is water a womens question?
  • Why is it so?

3
Why women and water
  • Water is a crucial means of production and source
    of life
  • All socially disadvantaged groups therefore need
    to have access to means of production
  • Equal citizens argument
  • Womens presence in the water related work is high

4
Gender Analysis- An exercise
  • Analysis of activities around water who does
    what?
  • Farming, Domestic, Other paid jobs, politics
  • Analysis of water resources who owns what?
  • Access, ownership Control the power to decide
    whether and how a resource is used
  • Analysis of benefits and incentives
  • who controls/has access to the benefits outputs
    of production
  • Analysis of who decides the rules- power
    structures

5
Women and water- relationship- special one
  • Access/control
  • Activities
  • Rule making process
  • benefits

6
Right to Water
  • Water entitlements
  • Water technology and infrastructure and
  • Voice or decision making in the water related
    institutions are mostly vested in men (some)

7
Water knowledge
  • Mostly technocentric where infrastructure and its
    management are seen as central
  • Womens water related work is invisible in the
    current water paradigm
  • Women, dalits, gender relations or equity in
    general do not feature as part of the core
    debates of water thinking

8
Tracing history- key trends
  • Women as victims of degradation of nature and
    water scarcity
  • Women as privileged knowers
  • Women as solutions to the problem
  • Theoretical underpinnings in the ecofeminist
    thinking- essentialist and material basis
  • Feminist environmentalism and feminist political
    ecology- dynamic relationship of women with
    nature and women as diverse

9
Tracing history .
  • The 80s were characterized by emerging advocacy
    in womens leadership in environmental action.
  • Emphasis on special relationship with nature
  • This had a tremendous impact in setting
    development agendas. Women were seen as
    privileged knowers and therefore the solution to
    the problem rather than merely victims.

10
Ecofeminism
  • Both these were informed by the varying trends in
    the ecofeminist thinking
  • close connection between women and nature based
    on a shared history of oppression by patriarchal
    institutions and dominant western culture as well
    as positive identification by women with nature.
    Ecofeminist thinking had various strands within
    it-essentialist, ideological and material basis
    for domination of women and nature

11
How are women visualised
  • Women first seen as the victims affected by the
    environmental crisis
  • Then seen as the solution because of their
    natural roles as care takers and nurturers

12
How it translated into programmes
  • Because women are the victims and because they
    are also the privileged knowers they need to be
    integrated into environmental regeneration
    programmes- participation leads to efficiency
  • Soil building planting trees, afforestation
    programmes, nurseries, energy efficient stoves
    community water management projects increased
    burden on womens work without challenging
    existing division of Labour

13
Dominant assumptionsmale and female sector
  • Women are home makers, nurturers and carers of
    natural resources and hence they should be seen
    in those very roles in the water sector.
  • Womens domain therefore remains that of domestic
    water sector- collecting and using that water for
    the welfare of the family.
  • Mens domain is seen in the productive sphere or
    the irrigation sector. This is considered as a
    natural extension of their work of value addition
    and surplus generation.

14
Approaches for gender water advocacy
  • Welfare
  • Instrumentalist
  • efficiency

15
Emerging Critiques
  • The 90s saw a lot of critiques of these
    ecofeminist and WED approaches- older concerns of
    womens relationship with nature have now been
    recast in terms of their property rights

16
Feminist Environmentalism
  • Feminist environmentalism emphasized the material
    aspects of gender-environment relationships.
    Interests in particular resources and ecological
    processes are shaped by the roles and
    responsibilities that men and women are engaged
    in on a daily basis-(BinaAgarwal)

17
Feminist Political ecology
  • Feminist political ecology draws on works from
    political ecology and from various lessons in the
    gender and environment debates.
  • It draws attention to questions of gendered
    knowledge, access and control over resources and
    the engagement between local struggles and global
    issues.(Rochleau et al)

18
What did they highlight?
  • Womens relationship with the environment
    emerging from the social context of dynamic
    gender relations challenging the notion of a
    natural affinity
  • They unpacked women as a homogenous category-
    relationships with nature differ for different
    categories of women

19
What did they highlight?
  • Shifting of focus from roles to relationships
    these critiques pointed out relations of tenure
    and property , and control over labour resources
    decisions shape peoples environmental interests
    and opportunities
  • Both these critiques highlighted the property
    relations and the need to look at informal
    practices and arrangements in property that
    underlie the formal arrangements.

20
What did they highlight?
  • They also challenged the notion that womens
    participation is equivalent to benefit for women.
    Saving the environment can become an additional
    burden for women thereby reinforcing regressive
    gender roles or not challenging existing gender
    roles
  • They highlighted the need for progressive or
    enhanced gender equity

21
New approaches
  • Equity and empowerment

22
Where do we go from here
  • What will our goals be?
  • How will we achieve them (different approaches
    equity, welfare, efficiency)
  • What are our major constraints in doing so
    (gender intersects with caste, class other social
    differences- so can we build shared interests?)

23
Way forward
  • Assess the status of womens access to water and
    decision making across diverse social groups-
    GEG-Levels of contestation across domains
  • calls for a restructuring of the water sector on
    sustainable, equitable and democratic lines
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