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From staying alive to taking control : gender and water resources management in the Bhal, Gujarat, India Blennerhassett, Natalie

Abstract

In Gujarat, India, the emerging participatory Water Resource Management (WRM) policy proposes the establishment of new village-level institutions. The shift towards decentralisation is indeed welcome; however, gender has for the most part been either inadequately integrated or limited to discussion of women's formal participation in these institutions. In select rural villages of the coastal arid-saline region of Gujarat known as the Bhal, the thesis examines the implications, applications and potential contributions of women's participation in potable WRM initiatives. The case study concerns two Gujarati grassroots Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Utthan and Mahiti, that have facilitated two rainwater harvesting initiatives: common property Plastic Lined Ponds (PLPs) and private property Roof Water Collection Tanks (RWCTs). Although the development initiatives are different, both the NGOs have fully encouraged an integrated gender WRM approach via village-level institutional management of local water resources. The mainstream Gender, Environment and Development (GED) literature suggests that local participation, particularly of village women who previously had no official roles or responsibilities, can be increased by integrating women into village-level institutions which govern the water resources. However, the research in the Bhal revealed that simply integrating women into village-level WRM institutions, although beneficial, did not always achieve the dual goal of increased access to and control of water resources with gender equitable participation. Yet, in a few of the study villages, where women took collective action, they did succeed in taking a leadership role in WRM and redistributing power along gender lines. The case study demonstrates that an integrated gender component is important not only for increasing the efficiency and sustainability of water resources, but also.because it provides both the context and the content of many village women's struggles.

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