ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Women and Water: Issues of Gender, Caste, Class and Institutions

An introduction to this collection of papers on women and water.

april 30, 2011 vol xlvi no 18 T he papers in this issue of the Review of Women’s Studies examine the relationship of women to water, setting it in the institutional environment of g ender relations and state policy. Despite the policy initiatives and attendant programmes to expand access to water users, given our hierarchical society, the conversion of drinking water into a private good where the market plays an important role in who can benet and who pays the cost adversely affects women and the lower castes and classes. While power and authority are nominally granted to women to manage water resources in the new decentralised governance structures on the assumption that domestic water supply is the legitimate domain of women, there remain many questions. To what extent does women’s representation in decisionmaking bodies empower them or does it only reinforce traditional social hierarchies in subtle ways? Does the emergence of women’s visibility in the public sphere hold the promise of emancipation and greater gender equality? As the experiences narrated in some of the articles here demonstrate, decentralisation of power and authority with the launching of panchayati raj in local communities has varied consequences at the eld level.

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