October 29, 2012

2012: Highlight # 24

Is assuring a seat on the decision-table enough to ensure women participation in irrigation management? Do all women participate in irrigation management the same way? Dastaghir explores...

Fencing Women in Water User Associations

An appraisal of gender strategy for Participatory Irrigation Management in Tamil Nadu

K. Gulam Dastaghir

This Highlight discusses the legal framework of the Tamil Nadu Irrigation Act and the implications it holds for gender equity. Membership to WUAs comes by virtue of ownership to land. However the study shows that neither ownership nor membership is sufficient for effective participation which is largely determined by social structures. Diversity of agrarian roles of women determines to a large extent the nature and extent of participation in irrigation governance. Women land owners who are also members but who are confined to the domestic sphere remain outside the ambit of participation while landless women agricultural laborers participate more effectively in irrigation governance. The author uses the term fencing of women to denote the caging of women in a legal framework that neither understands the varied roles and categories of women in agriculture nor does it support them to enhance their participation. The Highlight concludes with an appeal for an intensive survey which understands the diversities in women’s agricultural work and informs policy frameworks.

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