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Über dieses Buch

This book examines water security as a prime example of how the economic, socio-cultural and political-normative systems that regulate access to water reflect the evolving and gendered power relations between different societal groups. Access to water is characterized by inequalities: it depends not only on natural water availability, but also on the respective socio-political context. It is regulated by gender-differentiated roles and responsibilities towards the resource, which are strongly influenced by, among others, tradition, religion, customary law, geographical availability, as well as the historical and socio-political context.

While gender has been recognized as a key intervening variable in achieving equitable water access, most studies fail to acknowledge the deep interrelations between social structures and patterns of water use. Proof of these shortcomings is the enduring lack of data on water accessibility, availability and utilization that sufficiently acknowledges the relational nature of gender and other categories of power and difference, like class and socioeconomic status, as well as their comprehensive analysis. This book addresses this major research gap.



Erratum to: Water Security Across the Gender Divide

Christiane Fröhlich, Giovanna Gioli, Roger Cremades, Henri Myrttinen



Chapter 1. Bridging Troubled Waters: Water Security Across the Gender Divide

An increasing number of world regions is expected to become chronically short of water in future climate scenarios, even if there is no global water scarcity as such (Hejazi et al. 2014; Arnell 2004; Vörösmarty et al. 2000). The main factors are structural inequalities, a blatant lack of comprehensive and efficient water management in places that are already suffering from water stress, as well as a global water use that is growing at more than twice the rate of the population increase in the last century. The impacts of these dynamics will inevitably vary for different individuals and segments of society, with gender often playing a major, but not the only, role in mediating needs, vulnerabilities and access to coping strategies.
Henri Myrttinen, Roger Cremades, Christiane Fröhlich, Giovanna Gioli

Research and Policy Challenges


Chapter 2. Gender and Water in a Changing Climate: Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change is exacerbating existing water insecurity globally, with significant gender consequences. Changes in water availability, access, scarcity and security play critical roles in shaping the ways that individuals, communities and countries are tackling existing and predicted climate change. Although climate change is already increasing vulnerabilities, marginalisation, and sufferings of many across the world, impacts are unevenly felt across social strata. Intersectionalities of social difference, especially along gender and class lines, differentiate the ways in which impacts of climate change are experienced and responded to. This is particularly evident in water-related productive and reproductive tasks, as climate change is expected to exacerbate both ecological degradation (e.g., water shortages) and water-related natural hazards (e.g., floods, cyclones), thereby transforming gender–water geographies. As such, it becomes imperative to undertake multi-scalar, critical and intersectional analyses to better inform both academic debates and policymaking. Heeding gendered implications of climate change is particularly important as patriarchal norms, inequities, and inequalities often place women and men in differentiated positions in their abilities to respond to and cope with dramatic changes in socioecological relations and changing waterscapes, as well as foregrounds the complex ways in which social power relations operate in communal responses to adaptation strategies that are increasingly proliferating globally. This chapter explores the nexus of gender-water-climate change to demonstrate how different groups of people understand, respond to, and cope with variability and uncertainties in a changing climate to reveal the challenges and prospects that exist. ​
Farhana Sultana

Chapter 3. More than Women and Men: A Framework for Gender and Intersectionality Research on Environmental Crisis and Conflict

Over the past two decades, the important role of gender in environmental and water-related crises and conflicts has been increasingly recognized. Environmental crises occur in social contexts imbued with gender and other power relations. Existing literature in this area has examined how gender shapes issues of water access, use, governance, and adaptation to environmental crises. Gender, however, has been variously construed and theorized in this work. From essentialist to poststructuralist perspectives, the theorization of gender is key to its application in the environmental sector. In this chapter I present an overview of several major theoretical conceptualizations of sex and gender, ranging from the biological essentialist to the poststructuralist. I identify how gender has been variously used in the literature on environmental crisis and conflict. Key debates about ontology (essentialism) and representation (universalization) are highlighted. Drawing upon (and drawing together) these earlier theoretical insights and debates, I ultimately suggest a conceptual framework for doing multi-level intersectional research on environmental crisis and conflict. The framework helps to address the current tension between highly context-specific analyses and overly structural treatment of gender. The framework aims to help “scale up” the insights of intersectionality while still appropriately attending to the ongoing relevance of gender across contexts.
Amber J. Fletcher

Regional Perspectives on Gender and Water Security


Chapter 4. Gender and Water in the Middle East. Local and Global Realities

Gender is a relational process in which roles and interdependent ideas of masculinity and femininity are reproduced or challenged: a highly relational and fluid category, and its role in water dynamics, the most “relational” of all resources, is indeed crucial, albeit generally rendered invisible. Our aim in this paper is to contextualise crucial dynamics in gender relations that flow through water, by exploring local water systems in the Middle East (Jordan and Palestine) in relation to issues of access, control, distribution and “modernisation” of water supplies. First, we examine the relationality of water and gender dynamics as they have been discussed in the anthropological literature, in terms of how aspects of the “social life” of water are intertwined with ideas and roles of femininity and of masculinity within processes of modernisation. This leads us to focus on the first of our case studies—intensive irrigated agribusiness in Jordan—as a typical example of the masculinisation of water spaces within the bureaucratic encounter. We then present and discuss two case studies in the West Bank (Palestine) concerning, respectively, women’s daily domestic water practices in a refugee camp and irrigated water in a rural village: here, water relations may only be understood in the context of the broader political arena and in light of local, mutating, ideas of family.
Mauro van Aken, Anita De Donato

Chapter 5. Land and Water Reforms in South Africa: “Men in White Coats”

Despite numerous legislative attempts to redress past injustices, the redistribution of land and/or water remains a key challenge in post-apartheid South Africa. South Africa is currently identified as being in a state of a water crisis – and there are contentious and deeply polarized viewpoints on how the water security situation is linked to the transformation agenda. Through the narrative of an “emerging” female black farmer’s experiences with land and water reforms, this article gives a first-person account of the institutional barriers that keep intact an unequal, inequitable and unjust agrarian structure. The analysis also makes explicit how the transformatory agenda does not address the complexity of inequalities by race, crosscut as they are by gender and other social variables. By aiming to integrate an erroneously conceived homogeneous formerly excluded in an agrarian system meant to exclude them, the post-apartheid land and water reforms not only fail, but in turn make the formerly excluded “failed”. These analyses suggest that a feminist agenda which calls for a structural overhaul of policies and strategies as well as institutional structures and cultures might provide a much-needed antidote to the de-railed reform/justice agenda in South Africa.
Deepa Joshi, Natasha Donn-Arnold, Mart Kamphuis

Chapter 6. Integrating Gender Equality in WASH Emergency Response in the Central African Republic

The delivery of basic services such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) remains a challenge in contexts affected by protracted conflicts. Access to these services is mediated by the identities of providers and beneficiaries, as well as their perspectives of what are the most pressing needs. As such, they are entangled in complex formal and informal rules and power relations from the household all the way to the national level. In recognition of such complexities, the humanitarian sector has increasingly integrated a gender lens to its work. Numerous studies have highlighted the ways, advantages, and difficulties linked to mainstreaming gender in humanitarian programming. What has been less investigated, however, is how gender sensitive programming relates to the core principles of impartiality and ‘do no harm’ in humanitarian action. Through a case study of WASH programming in the Central African Republic, this chapter aims to better understand how to reconcile people’s equal access and control of water and sanitation in conflict or post-conflict contexts. We argue that gender sensitive programming cannot be a secondary thought but must be a critical element of an effective and impartial humanitarian intervention. The case study also contributes to the existing literature by focusing on the WASH sector, while most discussions on gender mainstreaming in humanitarian interventions have been confined to protection, thus missing important dimensions of empowerment at societal level through the provision of basic services such as water and sanitation.
Beatrice Mosello, Virginie Le Masson, Gladys Le Masson, Elena Diato, Véronique Barbelet

Chapter 7. Engaging with Gender in Water Governance and Practice in Kenya

How water is distributed, who has access and can make decisions on its use depends on various social, structural and institutional factors, among them gender. This paper examines the extent to which water–related policies and plans of the Kenyan government engage with gender. It analyses how the framing conditions set by the policies and plans affect the management of community water groups in Laikipia, and assesses whether the community water groups through their activities reduce gender inequality in access to water and in decision making about water-use. It uses a gender analytical framework that identifies three levels of engagement, whereby engagement occurs in a continuum: (1) gender mainstreaming, (2) the experience of gender in terms of addressing practical and strategic gender needs, and (3) the degrees of action to reduce gender inequality. We find that the Kenyan public policy has institutionalised various measures to reduce gender inequality, a major strategy being to limit the representation of either men or women to two-thirds in any governance arrangement. This means a 30% minimum representation of women. This top-down structural measure has permeated government ministries, departments and agencies and has become a precondition for government practice and interventions, including the water sector. By being an obligation, it is transformative in that it changes the way governance has been conducted prior to the policy change and serves as a benchmark for practice within and outside government. Bound by the water governance arrangements of the government, most community water groups have had to adopt the “two-thirds gender rule”. This policy measure has thus trickled down to local water governance. However, achieving strategic gender goals remains a challenge, highlighting how gender mainstreaming is inadequate to completely reduce gender inequality. Additional efforts are needed to change socio-cultural beliefs and norms to support a more gender-equitable access to water. Furthermore, an analysis of the community water groups highlight that financial capability may be a stronger factor than gender in determining men and women’s access to water in Laikipia, Kenya. Thus in addition to addressing socio-cultural beliefs and norms, there is a need to explore the intersections of gender and capabilities, and the roles they play in reducing gender inequality in water use and governance.
Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Edward Bikketi

Chapter 8. When Water Security Programmes Seek to Empower Women – A Case Study from Western Nepal

Women’s empowerment has been a key tenet of international water security programmes. Discourses on water envision that enhanced access to water resources can transform disempowered women into successful rural entrepreneurs. However, because such programmes often rely on simplistic representations of water, gender relations, and empowerment, they risk perpetuating and exacerbating gender inequalities.
Our study unpacks the storylines that drive water security interventions in the rural Global South, based on the case study of a donor-funded project in Nepal. The latter explicitly aimed at empowering women by improving their access to water for domestic and productive uses and by transforming women into rural entrepreneurs and grassroots leaders. We largely used qualitative methodologies, based on focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with households and key informants. Fieldwork was conducted in two villages targeted by the programme located in two districts of Far-Western Nepal.
Our findings show that the gender myths and models that drive water security programmes, e.g. women as individual decision-makers and entrepreneurs, fail to adequately consider intra-household relationships and negotiations and the values that give meaning to women’s agency. Such programmes tend to perpetuate predominant gendered norms, practices and unequal power relationships within households and communities. We recommend that water security programmes rely on more nuanced and context-specific understandings of women’s empowerment that go beyond enhanced access to resources and agency to include knowledge, critical consciousness and values. It is also important that such initiatives involve men and women – rather than exclusively targeting women – and initiate critical reflections on gender roles and masculinities.
Floriane Clement, Emma Karki

Gender-Positive Transformation Potentials in Water Conflicts


Chapter 9. “Just Women” Is Not Enough: Towards a Gender-Relational Approach to Water and Peacebuilding

Gender is a topic that every large development and peacebuilding organisation mainstreams in its programming. However, often “gender” implies a focus on women. We argue that this is not enough to utilise the full potential of a meaningful and effective integration of gender in specific projects, particularly in the peacebuilding and the water sector. The aim of this chapter is therefore to develop a first gender-relational approach to water and peacebuilding that will help researchers, practitioners and policy makers to better understand and integrate the multiple dimensions of gender. To achieve this aim, we first explore the main trends in and connections between gender on the one side and peacebuilding and the water sector on the other side, before we identify key gaps and crosscutting themes. Against this background, we develop a gender-relational approach based on questions to guide the integration of gender into water and peacebuilding. Our main method is a comprehensive review of the relevant academic literature and reports by key donors, and international development and peacebuilding organisations. Further, we draw on examples from Kenya and Nepal to conclude that a gender-relational approach to water and peacebuilding needs to go beyond a focus on “just women”. There is a need to incorporate heterosexual women and men, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI), explore the relations within and between these groups and include other identity markers in the analysis in order to generate a nuanced understanding of complex situations, and to develop effective programming in peacebuilding and the water sector.
Janpeter Schilling, Rebecca Froese, Jana Naujoks

Chapter 10. Calming the Waters, Ploughing the Sea – Can Gender-Responsive Approaches to Intra-state Water Conflicts Lead to Peacebuilding? Evidence from Lebanon and Nepal

Access to water, among other resources, has been and continues to be an implicit or explicit driver of intra-state conflict, and both access to water and conflicts are intimately linked to gendered power dynamics in any given society. While water as a conflict driver and the gendered nature of conflict have received relatively extensive attention from academics, policy-makers as well as practitioners of peacebuilding, the more positive approaches of using water and/or gender relations as entry points to conflict transformation and societally inclusive peacebuilding have been less researched. Drawing on case study examples from Nepal and Lebanon, the chapter explores some of the possibilities, necessary conditions and challenges of gender-responsive peacebuilding in the context of intra-state water conflicts.
Henri Myrttinen

Chapter 11. The Role of Women in Transboundary Water Dispute Resolution

Within decision-driven organisations that address water management and conflict mediation, there is much to be learnt about the role of women. At the provincial organisational levels, women’s participation in water management decision-making processes is more prevalent, while there is a gender disparity at the higher levels of the governing domain. Filling this void will bring greater perspective to water issues and challenges; bring recognition to a wider range of potential solutions; showcase women in multifaceted roles; and expand networks to better help address immediate, mid-term, and long-term concerns. The academic literature tends to categorise the role of women working in water, in terms of their contribution to community health; or their contribution to rural communities, in developing countries. Missing is the role of women as brokers of transformation within the water decision-making sphere. While many governments and nongovernment entities have emphasised women’s participation, efforts to achieve gender equality as a fundamental component emerging out of conflict towards peace and security, needs to be applied with conviction. Until a gendered approach to water management is applied as a matter of principle; and the gender gap in economics, politics, property rights, and cultural roles are closed, the valuable voice of at least half of the global population remains silent or underutilised in the process of conflict dispute when it comes to the world’s more than 300 transboundary freshwater shared resources.
Lynette de Silva, Jennifer C. Veilleux, Marian J. Neal


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