Gender and Water - Securing water for improved rural livelihoods


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Publication Title

Gender and Water - Securing water for improved rural livelihoods: The multiple-uses system approach

Publication Type

IFAD paper


Paper prepared by Robina Wahaj, consultant on water management, in

collaboration with Maria Hartl, technical adviser for gender and social equity.

Also involved:

  • Annina Lubbock, senior technical adviser for gender and poverty targeting,
  • Rudolph Cleveringa, senior technical adviser for rural development, water management and infrastructure,
  • Audrey Nepveu, technical adviser for water management, IFAD Technical Advisory Division

Publication Date



Publication URL




Most of the world’s 1.2 billion poor people, two thirds of whom are women, live in waterscarce countries and do not have access to safe and reliable supplies of water for productive and domestic uses. The bulk of these rural poor people are dependant on agriculture for their livelihoods and live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the regions which are also home to most of the world’s water poor.

One third of the world’s population is currently experiencing some kind of physical or economic water scarcity. A growing competition for water from different sectors, including industry, agriculture, power generation, domestic use, and the environment, is making it difficult for poor people to access this scarce resource for productive, consumptive and social uses. In water-scarce regions and countries, inequity in access to water resources is increasing because of competition for limited resources, and this particularly affects poor rural people, especially women.

IFAD recognizes the linkages between poverty and gender issues and places great importance on women’s empowerment as a means to reduce poverty and food insecurity. IFAD supports the notion that women’s secure access to water and land is central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, in particular Goal 1 (reducing by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015) and Goal 3 (promoting gender equality and empowering women). This is also reflected in the IFAD Strategic Framework 2007-2010, which highlights gender concerns as central to enabling the poor people living in rural areas to overcome poverty.

Water development was the focus of 34 per cent of the IFAD programmes and projects that were approved during 2000-2004. Moreover, IFAD’s 2000-2004 investment portfolio shows that there was a good balance between productive and social water investments, with some US$880 million (21 per cent of the total) going to agricultural water operations, and some US$562 million (13 per cent of the total) to social water development. Most of the agricultural water management programmes and projects addressed the need to strengthen water users associations (WUAs), thus achieving one of IFAD’s fundamental objectives of increasing the participation of beneficiaries in the design and implementation of programmes and projects.

This review examines the impact of water-related projects on women, women’s role in managing water resources and the constraints women face in gaining access to water. It presents lessons learned in promoting women’s participation in decision-making for water management using experiences from several IFAD-supported water programmes and projects. It highlights the innovative activities and catalysts that have helped to address gender issues in water programmes and projects. And it offers recommendations on how to improve women’s access to water resources through equitable development and gender mainstreaming.


See also


External Resources


 Ifad genderandwater 2007.pdf

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