Women and Water: Why it matters?

- Jesselina Rana

Water is deeply entwined with women’s lives and identities in South Asia, interacting with gender, caste, and class, and shaping water insecurity at the household level. Water, as a commodity and as a natural resource, intersects the lives of women in many places; relying on existing power structures and social hierarchies to determine access to and control of resources. Therefore, the practice of carrying water home, who does it and how they do it, is central to understanding the relationship between women with water.

The interlinking relationship between women and water begins from a small age. Gendered allocation of work in Nepal assigns care work or unpaid household labor as women’s forte, and this gender bias has benefited men at the expense of women. Due to this, in many households in South Asia, access to clean water remains a key concern only for women. This phenomenon is further exacerbated in rural areas. The time and effort women and young girls spend collecting water every day deeply impact their quality of life which has important implications for household food production and welfare.

Gender roles are defined from a small age in many societies of Nepal (Photo: Iih, Darchula)

A 2010 fact sheet from several UN agencies on the Right to Water indicates that women in developing countries across Asia walk an average of six kilometers per day to collect water.