Monash University
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Women's roles in integrated water resource management: a case study of the mutale water user association, Limpopo, South Africa

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posted on 2017-03-01, 00:54 authored by Elias, Faisal
The study examines the nature of women’s roles in integrated water resources management (IWRM), with a focus on a water user association in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The study was based on the premise that the literature related to women’s role and their involvement in the water sector has failed to explain adequately the nature and experiences of women, as they attempt to achieve productivity, decision-making and equity. Also, various studies assumed that women are only concerned about water for domestic purposes and men are responsible for productive water use. This underlying assumption has not only led to a number of unsustainable development interventions around water but has also underestimated women’s role. The importance of women has been recognised in IWRM. IWRM is a set of ideas to help manage water holistically. It is an integrated approach with more coordinated decision-making across sectors, scales and genders. Despite the significance of women in IWRM, they face various challenges that hinder them from effectively performing their decision-making roles. In most rural areas, women are predominantly recognised as the ones primarily responsible for the management of domestic water supply and sanitation. In these societies, women also play the role of family caregivers in terms of provision of food and nutrition. The design of the study was qualitative in nature. A grounded theory approach was used with semi-structured interviews as the main data collection tool. The interview involved 14 respondents from the Mutale WUA, Limpopo, South Africa. The results showed marked gender difference in terms of roles performed. Based on the study, three kinds of roles were revealed: domestic, productive and decision-making roles. Men were overwhelmingly involved in productive roles, giving low priority to domestic roles. The traditional view of a domestic role being a feminine chore was well reflected in the data collected. Women were responsible, among other things, for collecting drinking water, cooking, laundry, and house cleaning. The study also revealed that the decision-making role was dominated by men, with women having a passive involvement in IWRM. The key factors found to affect the role of women in decision-making in IWRM were cultural practices, low self-confidence, low levels of capacity, and high workloads. This study has significant implications for promoting gender equality, since it has unveiled barriers inherent within the specific society. The impact of culture on women in water management raises concerns about gender issues in rural and remote areas where people are poorer and more culturally conservative. The study recommended, among other things, capacity building to increase the understanding of gender implications for water management as part of an effort to empower women so that they can acquire knowledge and skills to participate meaningfully in water management issues. It is suggested that further studies should be conducted treating women as a heterogeneous group.


Principal supervisor

Bimo Nkhata

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Department, School or Centre

Monash South Africa. Faculty of Arts. Water Research Node, Monash South Africa


Master of Philosophy in Integrated Water Management

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Faculty of Arts

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