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Gender, Water And Corruption

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Tania Braimok (Järfälla, Sweden)

Tania Braimok  (Järfälla, Sweden)
SIWI - Stockholm International Water Institute

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 1: Water supply and demand,

There is increasing interest in how corruption affect access to water and its outcomes, and what can be done to combat corruption in the water sector from a gender perspective. This study examines the lived experiences of women living in the slums around Johannesburg in South Africa from mismanagement in the water sector. It will address women's perceptions of corruption but also their strategies to combat corruption. South Africa is one of the most water stressed countries in the world and face many problems as increase urbanization and climate change. Corruption in the water sector has a directly negative impact on the life of poor women, who are mostly responsible for both domestic use of water for the household and productive use for agricultural aspects (IFAD 2102).

If women and men differ in their social positions, one could expect them to differ in their attitudes towards corruption (GWA 2006). Higher levels of corruption in women's every day life may promote a higher acceptance for it that reflects in norms and behavior. Because of women's works and needs women are more victimized by corruption in the water sector, but they are also important actors in water management, and may behave differently than men by being more sound. If a strategy to lower corruption is by promoting more women related to water decision-making, the question is however if one can take for granted that women will be less corrupt than men, or that gender specific or attitudes to corruption may be more context- and culture specific (ibid).

Two influential World Bank studies (Dollar, Fishman and Gatti 2001; Swamy et al. 2001) at the end of 20th century were the first to explore the connection between gender and corruption and laid the first ground for the research topic. They demonstrated and found a correlation between women's representation in politics and corruption level. Larger representation of women in parliament reduced corruption. The observed gender differential led to the assumption that the observed data were caused by women's inclinations towards honesty, higher moral value and the common good. Both these studies advocated increasing of female participation in government as an anti-corruption initiative to combat corruption.

But other studies were not late to question the observed association between gender and corruption, several authors have criticized the notion of women's higher moral value and more women in government results in lower levels of corruption. Hung-En Sungs (2003) data favor the "fairer system" thesis and concludes that corruption practices are mainly caused by its social context, a political system that is characterized by a liberal democracy that promotes gender equality and better governance. Ann Marie Goetz also argues that previous studies fail to acknowledge the ways in which gender relations may limit the opportunities for corruption, particularly when corruption functions through all-male networks and in forums where women are socially excluded. Gokcekus and Mukherjee (2002) found that increasing women's representation to 30 per cent corruption decreases, but at a certain threshold increasing the numbers of women above 45 per cent corruption starts to increases. This is in line whit Goetz findings, as workplaces become more feminized and women take the top leaderships jobs one cannot assume that women will choose a less corrupt behavior (Goetz 2007, 92). Goetz comments that promoting women in politics as a bulwark against corruption serves to view "women as instruments to achieve a broader development goal" rather than welcoming them to public office as a matter of their democratic and social rights (ibid, 85). Furthermore, "women" does not denote a single social group it is inaccurate to overlook the many kinds of allegiances and priorities enjoyed by women from different economic, ethnic and social backgrounds.

Alatas (2006) found that what seems to play a key role in the persistence of corruption is that attitudes corruption differ and are culture specific, the most famous example is from Australia, Singapore and Indonesia, where attitudes only differed in the Australian context. Corruption is not gender neutral; it has different impacts on both women and men. The different gendered impacts women face from corruption are often social, cultural, political and institutional discrimination. Anti-corruption measures must therefor be gender responsive to facilitate gender equality and women's empowerment. Three recent UNDP studies have showed that empowered women, who have an opportunity for participation in decision-making, are powerful actors that can contribute to the fight against corruption.

By collecting qualitative data using focus group interviews, this study will also collect data from organizations working with one of the subjects; water, gender, anti-corruption to triangulate the data to get a deeper understanding and increase the validity. 1. Alatas,V. et al.(2006), "Gender and Corruption: Insights from an Experimental Analysis", University of Melbourne, Department of Economics, Research Paper #974.

2. Dollar, D., R. Fisman and R. Gatti. (1999). "Are Women Really the ‘Fairer’ Sex? Corruption and Women in Government". World Bank Development Economics Research Group, Policy Research Report on Gender and Development Working Paper Series 4, October.

3. Gender and Water Alliance (2006) "Gender Water and Integrity", (Collected 2014-10-20).

4. Gokcekus, O and Mukherjee, R. (2002). "Public sector corruption and gender perception of public officials from six developing and transition countries." Mimeo. Washington, DC: The World Bank.

5. Goetz,A.M. (2007)."Political Cleaners: Women as the New Anti-corruption Force? "Development and Change 38(1) 2007: 85–105.

6. HUAIROU COMMISSION – UNDP (2012). New York, "Seeing beyond the State: Grassroots Women's Perspectives on Corruption and Anti-corruption".

7. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), (2012), "Gender and Water, Securing water for improved rural livelihoods: The multiple-uses system approach".

8. Sung, H-E. (2003). "Fairer Sex or Fairer System? Gender and Corruption Revisited". Social Forces 82: 705–725.

9. Swamy, A., S. Knack, Y. Lee and O. Azfar. (2000)."Gender and Corruption". World Bank Working Paper Series, No. 232.Maryland: IRIS Center, University of Maryland.

10. UNDP – UNIFEM (2010), New York, "Corruption, Accountability and Gender: Understanding the Connections", Primers in Gender and Democratic Governance, #5.

11. UNDP, (2014), New York, "Gender and Corruption in Latin America: Is there a link?".

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