SINGH Nandita, BHATTACHARYA Prosun, JACKS Gunnar, GUSTAFSSON Jan-Erik
Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) Teknikringen 76 SE-100 44 Stockholm Sweden
The importance of gender concern in water sector is being increasingly recognized. Since women and men exhibit socially and culturally determined differences in behaviour, roles and responsibilities as well as opportunities (Seymour-Smith, 1986; Woroniuk, Thomas and Schalkwyk, 1997), it is believed that interventions within the sector must also reflect gender concern. Significance of the concern is seen at both policy and program levels. Knowledge of gender-specific priorities of different water-users is expected to contribute towards a realistic formulation of water policies and implementation plans at all levels (Guijt, 1994). Further, it is seen as a harbinger of greater efficiency and effectiveness as well as equity in water projects (Brismar, 1997; Thomas, Schalkwyk and Woroniuk, 1996).
As a follow-up on the benefits of gender concern in the sector, there has been a continuing trend of designing water management policies with emphasis ranging from promoting participation of women in management of water projects in particular to supporting ‘gender-balanced’ development of the water sector in general (Cleaver, 1998a; Woroniuk, 1994). How effective have these policies been in addressing the basic concerns raised at their outset? Do these concerns reflect the realistic gendered needs and priorities of the water users? Are these policy initiatives built upon the specificities of the gender dimension in local (traditional) water management systems? Are the (gendered) realities of the latter similar to the propositions laid down in the policies? Do ‘effectiveness’ and ‘equity’ as underlying policy goals reflect the water users’ perceptions as well? Finally, is there a need to redefine or refine the goals and contents of the current gender-based water management policies?