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Gender and Water Management


Panchali Saikia

WOMEN WATER PROFESSIONALS: INSPIRING STORIES FROM SOUTH ASIA
Edited by Sumi Krishna and Arpita De
Zubaan Books, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 268, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 2 February 2014

The central role of women in the provision, management and safeguarding of water was recognized in 1992 itself with the adoption of the Dublin principles at the International Conference on Water and the Environment held in Dublin but the attempts at mainstreaming gender into water management initiatives have received very limited success. Dominated by a masculinized discourse and patriarchal practices, women face continuing discrimination and exclusion in the everyday practices in water management programmes and policies. They are often under-represented in this field and their role is largely restricted to community-based and domestic-level management programmes. The visibility of their participation at all the levels of water programmes, especially in decision making, project design and policy implementation is very rare.   Women’s equal participation with men at all the levels from the grassroots to the decision making table is a prerequisite for achieving sustainability in management of water resources. Due to the absence of women’s participation at the decision-making and project implementation level, many water management projects fail to address and consider the specific needs of women and children. Men who mostly dominate the technical sector in maintaining and implementing water management projects fail to understand many gender sensitive aspects. For instance, whether or not the location of the water tap-stands and tube-wells are at a convenient distance for women to fetch and collect water for their household; do the sanitation facilities provide privacy and better hygienic condition for women? Exercising a primary responsibility in the domestic sphere of water management for long, women have accumulated considerable knowledge in water harvesting and storage for domestic and irrigation use, and managing a hygienic and healthy environment in the household. Also, women are far more sensitive in such micro-planning and addressing gender issues in the water management project.   In several parts of the world, women at the grassroots level are playing a predominant role in raising awareness and pioneering development activities in water and sanitation management. It is in this context that the book under review is an inspiring documentation that highlights the work of some of the pioneering women in South Asia who have excelled in making a profound impact on water and sanitation management challenging the socio-cultural norms and the traditional boundaries of the society. Edited by Sumi Krishna and Arpita De, seventeen authors from the region, some extremely well known in the field, have contributed to this volume, developing it ...


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