Women-led Sustainable and Decentralised Water Resource Management

3 -Days Online Certificate Training Programme on “Women-led Sustainable and Decentralised Water Resource Management – A Multi Stakeholders Perspective” , Aug 25-27, 2021


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DAY 1: 25th August 2021

The three days Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Women-led Sustainable and Decentralised Water Resource Management – A Multi Stakeholders Perspective” is a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Centre for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi commenced on 25th of Aug, 2021.

Inaugurating the session Ms. Nishi Verma Research Program Officer at, IMPRI welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panelists.

She stated the fact that Women are most often the collectors, users, and managers of water in the household and the farmers of irrigated and rain-fed crops. They have consequently accumulated considerable knowledge about this resource, from its quality and reliability to acceptable storage methods. But unfortunately, women themselves are often unaware of their potential value and are not involved in water user associations, public water management bodies, and water committees, thus hindering the success of water management efforts.

If sustainable resource development is the goal, local ownership and regulation are critical and for this to be truly successful, all users and stakeholders should be involved in developing water management and irrigation programs, including—and perhaps first and foremost—women.

She highlighted that as scholars, practitioners, and policymakers it is important to ensure that the water sector becomes more gender-aware and there is a need to understand the background, issues, and problems thereby objectively analyzing them to chart the best ways forward.

Day 1 of the program included eminent speakers Mr. Maulik Sisodia, Executive Director, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar, Mr. Ranjan Panda Waterman of Odisha; Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha, and Combat Climate Change Network, India and Prof Varsha Khandker, Faculty, Marketing, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Nagpur with patron being Maj Gen Manoj K Bindal Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi, Convener Prof Anil Kumar Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Convener and Moderator Dr. Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI.

The patron for the program is Maj Gen Manoj Kumar Bindal, Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi

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Commencing the program the patron for the session Major Gen Manoj Kumar Bindal stated that the role of women in disaster management, sustainable development, and for a better society is normally underplayed and hence there is a need for women’s involvement in water management planning processes. He threw light on the scenario where women have to travel large distances to fetch water as the burden of providing portable water for the family is on women. Involving women’s participation in water management issues is just as they are the ones directly connected with water management.

women have the right to be heard and should be part of the planning from the inception till the execution stage with a position for decision making.

The conveyor of the session professor Anil Kr. Gupta Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi


Prof Anil Kr Gupta opined that NIDM emphasizes recognizing the role of women in the system of disaster risk management and promoting women leadership. He said that Water and Land management go hand in hand in disaster risk management issues and with the expansion of urban areas urban drought conditions can be foreseen.

women-led initiatives need to be looked at in rural and peri-urban areas.

Mr. Maulik Sisodia, Executive Director, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar

Maulik Sisodia Bio

Mr. Maulik Sisodia shared a video at the beginning of the training program captioned “Neer – Nari – Nadi” which recognized the contribution of women of Rajasthan in India who are leading the process of water conservation, river rejuvenation, and climate change adaption through their Water Wisdom.

Mr. Ranjan Panda, Waterman of Odisha; Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha, and Combat Climate Change Network, India

Ranjan K Panda Bio JPG

Mr. Ranjan shared that women for women walk for water has been very long in India and today we walk into a period where our next water policy is being finalized hence it is important to discuss the role of women in water management. He accentuated that traditionally women have been our water carriers and they are the ones to bear the brunt of the water crisis.

Sharing a scenario of global crisis he said that women around the world spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water. Women farmers contribute to 37% of the agricultural workforce and spend twice the number of hours that men do, working on fields in the cropping season. Thus women are poised to be the best agents of change in water management.

Talking about asserting women’s space he emphasized that women have a significant presence in agriculture as well as local self-governance but it comes to decision-making on water, they still have miles to go. He shared sporadic examples of Decision making in water structures, water mechanics, and water supply projects where women have emerged as water champions in realizing their water projects.

World Bank evaluation of 122 projects showcased water projects that included women were six to seven times more effective than those that did not.

Throwing light on the benefits of women’s first perspective in water management he underlined that women-led collectives have driven changes in cropping practices and improved water efficiency and hence women should be involved in mainstream decision making.

Prof Varsha Khandker, Faculty, Marketing, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Nagpur

Varsha Khandker Bio JPG

Prof Varsha khandker based her talk on women issues and present her work on SDG 5 (gender equality) that includes removing discrimination, acknowledging unpaid care and domestic work done by women, allowing full and effective participation, ensuring property rights, and providing policy and legislation to provide equality to females and SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation for all) which includes integrated water resource management and participation of local communities.

She presented a paper on “Gender Perspective in Water Management: Involvement of Women in Participatory Irrigation Institutions of Eastern India” and highlighted that women in agriculture contribute to more than half of the world’s food production however Agriculture Policy often consider farmers as men and women role is considered restricted to the home. She mentioned the existing water policies in India -1987, 2002, 2012 which gives little importance to concerns related to gender.

Various determinants of women participation include property rights, spheres of influence of men and women, personal constraints (time, convenience, and literacy), societal norms, and power equations.

She further threw light on the need for women’s participation as lack of participation leads to corruption and hampers social equity while on the other hand women’s participation leads to better natural resource management, better compliance and rights, and improved bargaining power of women.

Based on her study of two states of Assam and Bihar she shared major findings that Women’s inclusion in Water User Associations committees and Water User Associations decision making is very low with limited success in greater involvement and empowerment of women. Also, Water User Association impacts were reported to be better in terms of environmental and production benefits but lacked equity benefits.

DAY 2: 26th August, 2021

Day 2 of the program included eminent panelist Ms. Anjali Makhija Chief Operating Officer, S. M. Sehgal Foundation, Gurugram, Dr. Marcella D’souza, Director, WOTR Centre for Resilience Studies (W-CRES); Former Executive Director of Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), Dr. Mansee Bal Bhargava Entrepreneur, Researcher & Educator; Former Executive Director, SaciWATERs. The Patron for the session is Maj Gen Manoj K Bindal Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi, and Conveners Prof Anil K Gupta Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi Dr. Simi Mehta CEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI.

Starting with the session Ms. Nishi Verma, Research Program Officer, IMPRI welcomed the speakers and participants to the programme with an introduction to eminent panelists.

Ms Anjali Makhija, Chief Operating Officer, S. M. Sehgal Foundation, Gurugram

Anjali Makhija Bio JPG

Ms. Anjali Makhija shared her experience as a practitioner while working in rural communities with women. She briefly mentioned the role of the Sehgal Foundation in water resource management. She stated some of the water-efficient agricultural practices like Drip irrigation and Micro sprinkler where women are the key stakeholders. She talked about the area of water conservation where farm mechanization is handled by men and labor and unpaid work is done by women. The water conservation techniques include Mulching and laser leveling which saves water and reduce cost. Talking about wastewater management she refers to soak well and soak pit.

She further underlined the existing gaps in governance that are non-translation of the 73rd constitutional amendment that called for a reservation to participation, gender stereotypes, Patriarchal norms, illiteracy, low social mobility, financial dependency, meaningless participation of women in school management committees, and village health sanitation and nutrition committees. She pointed to the area of low women participation in WASH.

women are informal water managers at the domestic level but lack recognized authority.

Various activities to address these gaps include women leadership schools, Village development committees, and training and capacity building.

She gave the recommendation of the formation of Mahila Gram Sabhas which will provide a safe platform for women to express themselves and collectively advocate and demand their rights. She emphasized the important role played by local policy players.  She further suggested actions to be undertaken like the need for systems and institutional mechanisms for women participation, Technical training and education for women, promoting women leadership at all levels, policy and enforcement mechanisms for land rights, gender-segregated research data, etc.

Dr. Marcella D’Souza, Director, WOTR Centre for Resilience Studies (W-CReS); Former Executive Director of Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR)

Marcella Dsouza Bio JPG

Dr. Marcella based her talk on Responsible water Management and Women leadership in Rural India. She briefly shares about the WOTRs work and its core programs. She further elaborated the WOTRs work of Water Stewardship and described the process for stakeholder engagement where village representative teams were formed and trained to motivate and mobilize the community. Stakeholder workshops were conducted at block, district levels involving government officials, NGOs, Service providers, and village representatives.

Bringing the community together to understand not only the surface demography (watershed) but also understand underground water Aquifers and their management.

She shared some of the achievements of WOTR and stated that water stewardship implementation is functioning in almost 175 villages with the adoption of practices of micro-irrigation, mulching, vermicomposting and organic manures.

She told about the implementation of safe drinking water in the village by village drinking water and Sanitation committee having 50% women members where women monitor the smooth functioning of the drinking water system and timely maintenance of water filters. The various impacts of the safe drinking water project were that the time saved for fetching water was used for other productive works, reduced health problems, increased women initiatives in problem-solving and decision making. She talked about the perception of men and women regarding the role of women technical officers in Water Resource Management.

Sharing the key take ways Dr. Marcella stated that one must ensure women are involved as there is a leader hidden in them, women want to participate and are eager to learn and understand the challenging aspects of conservation and hence should be given an opportunity to nurture her village, to protect and make it grow. She further stressed 50% of women’s participated in Gram Sabhas and various decision-making events.

Dr. Mansee Bal Bhargava, Entrepreneur, Researcher & Educator; Former Executive Director, SaciWATERs

Mansee Bhargava Bio JPG

Dr. Mansee shared her thought process and gave a view that our notion of developing women leaders is very much masculine.

Need to change the narrative from ‘Empower women as they suffer more’ to ‘more power to women as they offer an alternative.

She advocated that there is neither a water problem nor a women’s problem rather a problem of Patriarchy and one needs to solve women’s problem first and then the water problem. She further elaborated the point and pointed that it is about the Masculine versus Feminine Approach and the Centralized versus Decentralized Approach to Water Management.

She opined on bringing change from leadership situations with more women representatives in leadership roles. She proposed more femininity in water decisions, designs and developments by bringing more women on board. She advocates for Eco-Feminism and De-development.

She further accentuated that problem lies at the grass root level for engaging women in social-cultural and requires capacity building, training, and awareness to resolve. However, the bigger problem lies at the policy level and women are often kept away from decision-making roles. She proposes to change the narrative of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ to ‘Beti ko Upar Uthao’.She recommends changing perception towards decentralization and underlines the need for community water management rights.

She sums up by saying that we need slow and steady growth that is sustainable, we require water conservation, strengthening traditional water conservation systems, and encouraging small-scale local solutions, inclusiveness, and democracy in water approaches. She further emphasizes changing perception of development by focusing on funds required for Dedevelopment and building less and restoring old nature.

DAY 3: 27th August, 2021

Day 3 of the program included eminent speaker’s  Mr. V R Raman, Head of Policy, Water Aid India; National Convenor, Public Health Resource Network, Mr. Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Senior Visiting Fellow, IMPRI, New Delhi, Ms. Urvashi Prasad, Director, Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office NITI Aayog. The Patron for the session is Maj Gen Manoj K Bindal Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi, and Conveners Prof Anil K Gupta Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi Dr. Simi Mehta CEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI.

Starting with the session Ms. Nishi Verma, Research Program Officer, IMPRI welcomed the speakers and participants to the programme with an introduction to the eminent panelists.

Mr. V R Raman, Head of Policy, Water Aid India; National Convenor, Public Health Resource Network

V R Raman Bio JPG

Mr. V.R.Raman directed his talk on building action towards community-level disaster preparedness and resilience and women’s role in it. He talked about water conservation at home and pointed out that wastage of water mainly is done by men and conservation by women.

Water resource management also means making inventions more water-conserving.

He further accentuated the fact that women-led water resource management is all about removing the patriarchy from water and enabling equal participation of women in conserving and securing it.

He listed several steps in valuing and optimizing the invaluable resource (water) these are: realizing the linkage of civilization and water, knowing the pain of fetching the elixir, realizing pain around water and addressing them, assessing the water situation and vulnerabilities, knowing ways to fill the deficit and preserve the surplus, understanding water qualities, and health linkages and managing it, ensuring the sustainability of water resources, harvesting water, anticipating disasters and addressing its water linkages, etc.

He further shared about ‘Jal Chaupals’ which aims at valuing and optimizing the invaluable resource. He talks about participatory vulnerability assessment tools and processes for developing an understanding of water availability, access, water levels, quality.

Community-level water budgeting and planning for every purpose along with joint water conservation, augmentation, regulations play a major role in optimizing water.

He illustrates the water – sanitation linkages and water safety and ways of managing water supply by averting contamination of surface water bodies and groundwater. He talks about disaster preparedness and resilience around water and states that it is important to realize potential disasters for the locality and their connection to water and incorporate planning, preventing, and mitigation measures by preparing communities and setting up institutional support arrangements.

Mr. Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Senior Visiting Fellow, IMPRI, New Delhi

Tikender Bio

Mr. Tikender started with the question of considering water to be a right or a need because if we consider water as a need there are multiple players in the market to fulfill it but if it is a right it accrues from the structure of states. Due to the homogenous amount of appropriation taking place in the cities certain components which were considered as use-value are transformed into exchange value for instance water can be considered as a use-value but if water is a use-value there is a certain kind of right that exists in a society.

He says that natural assets are also being commoditized. He talks about the interlinkage between water resources and climate change as the latter has a big impact on water resources.

Most of the city development plans are more capital intensive technologies resulting in a larger push to shift our conventional wisdom of the way we were running our cities and water utility happens to be one of them.

He opined that phenomenal wealth gets accumulated in the privatization of water utilities. He pointed the importance of rejuvenating natural resources in cities.

He stated it is important to work out the cost of producing water when talking about water sustainability methods because the unavailability of portable water leads to larger suffering for women. Hence water utility and water management should be done in such a manner where it’s not just quantity but also the portability of water which is essential for the sustainability of water.

Ms. Urvashi Prasad, Director, Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office NITI Aayog

Urvashi Prasad Bio JPG

Ms. Urvashi touched upon the extensive role played by local communities and stressed ensuring the role of local communities and giving them ownership at every level.

Given the structure of India the ownership and engagement of local communities from the very outset in planning, designing or implementation, and monitoring.

Engagement of women leads to better outcomes with better distribution of resources to local areas. The government’s role comes in empowering local communities and equipping women with the right enabling tools to voice out solutions. She advocates for enabling and empowering knowledge that exists in local communities. She stated that there exist urban-rural distinctions and one needs to have the right tools and strategies to work in these different contexts given the local community dynamics.

She also highlighted the importance of local governments and institutional mechanisms to make sure that community engagement is effectively channelized into the work that local government is doing into programs and policies that are being implemented with monitoring. She stressed having adequate response mechanisms.

Closing the 3-Day training session conveyor of the session Prof Anil K Gupta Head ECDRM, NIDM gave his concluding remarks and thanked all the eminent panelists. He underlined that a lot of important points have been brought up in the training and this kind of training discourse plays an important role in making people on the policy table accept the existing issues and plan their policies through suggestions and statistics provided in the discourse. He complimented the entire team of Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) on the successful conduction of the training program.

The training program ended with a vote of thanks by the moderator.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

Mainstreaming the gender perspective in Water Resource Management:

  1. Recognizing that the interests and needs of women as well as those of men must be systematically pursued in the development of all national/regional policies and programs.
  2. Legal frameworks and institutional reform to incorporate gender considerations, so that women and men have equitable access to productive resources.
  3. Building capacity to increase the understanding of gender implications for water management, as part of an effort to empower women so that they can acquire the skills to enter water management at a senior level.
  4. A proactive effort to gender sensitize water management approaches at senior policy making levels in national structures as part of a strategy to ensure equity and increased women’s involvement in these processes.
  5. Policy changes so that gender becomes an intrinsic part of the water resources management strategy of countries.
  6. Care in ensuring gender balanced participation in management at community levels.
  7. Capacity building so that women are able perform managerial functions. This includes the development of skills in financial management, decision-making, community participation, leadership, confidence building and communications.

Providing women equal access to and control of resources:

  1. Understanding to what extent do women have equal access and control of natural resources such as water as well as land and economic resources which can impact water access.
  2. Access to training, tools, resources, and support for land and water-related activities by women and marginalized people.

Exploring the untapped potential of women in urban water management:

  1. Requires collective action of municipal governments, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society.
  2. Women water users have invaluable insights about the design, operation, and maintenance of water systems, which reflect their needs and preferences as the sector’s primary customers.
  3. Women play an important role in design and maintenance that helps promote water stewardship and the use of water in socially inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial ways.
  4. Bolstering women’s involvement in water conservation needs to build on and leverage their uniquely influential relationship with water within their communities.

Enabling women leadership in water management

  1. Within local government, women’s participation and leadership have led to greater investment in women’s issues, such as safe drinking water, sanitation, child care services, drainage, and street and village lighting.
  2. Within communities, women’s leadership has led to improved water security and greater efficiency.
  3. Women leaders are needed at all levels of society, in water utilities, government water agencies, and international and regional water institutions to reduce the democratic gender deficit in water leadership.

Training Report:

Youtube Video : Women-led Sustainable & Decentralised Water Resource Management

Day 1 | NIDM & IMPRI Training | Women-led Sustainable & Decentralised Water Resource Management

Day 2 | NIDM & IMPRI Training | Women-led Sustainable & Decentralised Water Resource Management

Day 3 | NIDM & IMPRI Training | Women-led Sustainable & Decentralised Water Resource Management

Picture Courtesy: worldbank.org