Water in Asia and the Pacific is a marker of competing development paradigms, sharpening economic inequities over access and growing competition and conflict, particularly in contexts of water scarcity, climate variability and uncertainty.
At the same time, water is a marker of social change with recent national policies across the region – under the global rubric of sector reforms – calling for cost recovery from users and greater citizen participation in community institutions for demand responsive water management.
Women’s participation, through quotas ranging from 30-50 percent, is seen as integral to the emerging water commons as women are largely responsible for water collection and caring for household health and hygiene, but have had little voice in water policy, planning or management.
Drawing on insights from action-research in India over the past 20 years, this presentation looks at the extent to which citizens' participation in water governance in the world’s largest democracy – India – has moved beyond mere instrumentality to actively engage with the transformatory potential of water.
Has participation enabled women to articulate voice and negotiate more gender equitable and sustainable water management for their households and communities? Is decentralization transforming citizens into active subjects and establishing institutional arrangements that theoretically are meant to facilitate good governance, accountability and transparency in water management?
Dr Sara Ahmed (PhD, University of Cambridge, 1991) has been working on the political economy of water in India for the past 20 years. After teaching on gender, environment and development issues at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, India (1992-2002), Sara currently works as an independent action-researcher on issues ranging from vulnerability, adaptation and climate variability to gender, water governance and conflicts.
She is an Associate with the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET, www.i-s-e-t.org) and is also the Chairperson of the Gender and Water Alliance (GWA, www.genderandwater.org) as well as a board member of several NGOs in India working on livelihoods, governance and gender rights.
This public lecture is part of Asia Pacific Week 2009.
Date: Tuesday, 27 January 2009