Water and Gender: The Unexpected Connection That Really Matters

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Since the mid-1990s, worldwide focus on water scarcity has exploded. Attention has moved beyond the technical dimensions of water provision to the political and social contexts in which water management occurs. In many places, especially where water is scarce, control over water confers power. The political analysis of water is then an analysis of power relations. As social scientists have entered the water world, and more and more case studies are carried out in Latin America, Africa and Asia, another facet of the politics of water that has been brought to light is gender differentiation in water usage and water management. In our 2005 book, Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, we provided a framework for understanding the connection between water and gender and a review of the development of global water policy and gender policy since the early 1990s, using case studies from six Latin American countries to highlight the role of women in water management. We found that substantial change is still needed to overcome pernicious gender bias and imbalances that distort water management and lead to ineffective planning in the water sector.

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