Centrality of Women in Water Management
8th Jun, 2021
- Women have played a major role in water management and hence, policies need to be designed in a manner to enhance this role even further.
Gender roles: Ownership and management
- The collection of drinking water in most rural communities has been done by women.
- Water collection by young girls have caused absence from school and many health problems. Thus, the provision of water service at the household level would benefit women the most.
- As women have been “health care-takers of the family”, the poor quality of water which causes water-borne diseases also affects women the most.
- In some locations, the water collection is the concern for women’s safety also.
- Being water carriers and water managers, women are traditional knowledge bearers of the season-wise water availability in different water sources, source-wise water quality as compared to men which is very useful for planning the water supply scheme.
- Hence, women become the core stakeholder in the provision of Functional Household Tap Connections.
- For an equal society until men also to take up an equal role in providing drinking water, it needs to be ensured that women are empowered in all decisions related to drinking water management in a village.
- By involving women, the programme also empowers the women thus creating a gender transformative impact.
- There are many ways in which women’s contribution can be sought and their voice be given weight:
- Mandatory 50% participation of women, especially those belonging to SCs/STs and OBCs, in the Village Water & Sanitation Committee (VWSC).
- Separate meetings with women during the mobilization process: The 73rd/74th Amendments of the Constitution and PRI Act make women’s representation mandatory and many Gram Panchayats have women Sarpanches. Each Panchayat has at least 1/3rd women and many states have 50% women representation in the Panchayat. These elected women representatives (EWRs) should be given greater powers in all water-related schemes.
- Interaction with existing women’s groups during the initial village visits: Many of these SHGs have women, mainly from economically weaker sections, and hence, involving them ensures the inclusion of the poor and vulnerable communities in the village.
- Special recognition of VWSCs with women leaders or larger women’s membership.
- Gender sensitization of the implementation team staff is essential and women should be part of the capacity building.
- Train at least five village women for the supervision of implementation, and later for regular supply of water. Nominate and train women as Jal Doots/Bhu Jaankar, if there is a cadre of water para-legal workers.
Thus, women across the country need to be engaged in rural drinking water supply schemes consciously for long-term water security in villages.