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Women and Water: Encountering the challenges of water resource management in rural India from gender perspective
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering. (Vattenförvaltning, Water Management)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6166-4992
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4350-9950
2009 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Women are universally recognized as domestic water managers, concerned with both domestic water provision and use. This multi-facetted role of women, particularly in the rural setting, has been a cause of significant global concern, seen as constrained by factors like inaccessibility and non-reliability of water sources, arising primarily from problems with water quantity and quality. Assuming the universality of these constraints, the strategic water related need of women has been identified as having access to convenient, reliable and safe water sources located close to home. Such facilities are expected to contribute to their well-being and development through greater convenience, better health and enhanced socio-economic opportunities. The needs of rural women with respect to water have also been recognized in India through rural water supply programs. 88.4% rural habitations in India are fully covered with improved low-cost water supply sources that the users can help build and maintain themselves. For greater success and sustainability of the improved water sources, there has also been an emphasis on women's participation in operation and maintenance in particular and water management in general. However, observations in the so-called ‗covered' areas indicate that irrespective of the problem of water quality or quantity and the question of women's participation, inability on part of women to meet holistic and specific water needs of their families continues to persist, with continued dependence of many of them on traditional water sources that are distant and may not necessarily be safe. This research project was undertaken to decipher the realities underlying this paradox. Based upon a primary long-term field-based study following an interdisciplinary approach that blended socio-cultural dimensions with technical aspects of the problem, the research shows that the needs, interests & concerns of rural women with respect to improved water sources are diversified and so also their interest in participation and that all these are rooted in a complex web of 3 sets of micro-level factors embedded in the local socio-cultural matrix:

(i) Cultural beliefs, values & norms defining standards of water quality that ultimately influence pattern of use of the new safe sources for the designated purpose of drinking & cooking; (ii) Social organizational principles, primarily caste, class, religion, as intersecting with gender, age & generation that influence the real access to improved water sources; and (iii) Divergence of the new technology from the traditional water technology & knowledge system that may thwart women's involvement in operation & maintenance, hence adversely affecting sustainability of the improved water sources - especially true in areas affected by high levels of arsenic and fluoride in drinking water where complex technologies for mitigation have been introduced. Also the new strategies introduced for promoting women's participation do not match the traditional gender norms. It was found that the development bureaucracies that design water supply programs are concerned with only the macro-level problems and their technological solutions, assuming that once provided, women will spontaneously adopt the improved sources and also participate actively in their upkeep and maintenance. They remain oblivious of the micro-level factors identified above that ultimately influence the use, access and sustainable management of water supply technologies, hence thwarting the benefits planned for women as water users and managers. The research recommends that water supply programs be re-conceptualized beyond a construct of mere technology, people (focus on women) and institutions. If real benefits are to be effectively delivered to the women for whom these are created, there is a need to integrate the socio-cultural context of implementation as the fourth aspect within the program design. Integration of this aspect will imply requisite changes in the program contents and strategies so as to make it more pragmatic, acceptable, workable and effective when introduced in local communities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2009. , 46 p.
Trita-LWR Report, ISSN 1650-8610 ; 3025
Keyword [en]
women, water, socio-cultural matrix, participation, gender, caste, India, arsenic, fluoride
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-62512ISRN: KTH/LWR/REPORT 3025-SEISBN: 78-91-7415-502-0OAI: diva2:480517
QC 20120210Available from: 2012-02-10 Created: 2012-01-19 Last updated: 2012-02-10Bibliographically approved

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