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Understanding the women and water relationship (IWC5 Presentation)


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Seema Kulkarni, SOPPECOM, Pune, India (Legal and Institutional Frameworks)
Presentation given during the 5th GEF Biennial International Waters Conference in Cairns, Australia during the participant-led workshop on Gender and Water.

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Understanding the women and water relationship (IWC5 Presentation)

  1. 1. 5th Biennal GEF conference 26-29 O1 Understanding the women and water relationship Seema Kulkarni SOPPECOM, Pune, India
  2. 2. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc2  Is water a women’s question?  Why is it so?
  3. 3. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc3 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  Women’s presence in the water related work is high
  4. 4. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc4 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. 5. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc5 Women and water- relationship- special one  Access/control  Activities  Rule making process  benefits
  6. 6. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc6 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. 7. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc7 Water knowledge – Mostly technocentric where infrastructure and its management are seen as central – Women’s 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. 8. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc8 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. 9. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc9 Tracing history ….  The 80’s were characterized by emerging advocacy in women’s 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. 10. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc10 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. 11. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc11 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. 12. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc12 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 women’s work without challenging existing division of Labour
  13. 13. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc13 Dominant assumptions male 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.  Women’s domain therefore remains that of domestic water sector- collecting and using that water for the welfare of the family.  Men’s 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. 14. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc14 Approaches for gender water advocacy  Welfare  Instrumentalist  efficiency
  15. 15. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc15 Emerging Critiques  The 90’s saw a lot of critiques of these ecofeminist and WED approaches- older concerns of women’s relationship with nature have now been recast in terms of their property rights
  16. 16. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc16 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. 17. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc17 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. 18. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc18 What did they highlight?  Women’s 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. 19. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc19 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 people’s 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. 20. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc20 What did they highlight?  They also challenged the notion that women’s 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. 21. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc21 New approaches  Equity and empowerment
  22. 22. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc22 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. 23. 5th Biennal GEF conferenc23 Way forward  Assess the status of women’s 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