Gender and property rights in the commons: Examples of water rights in South Asia

  • Margreet Zwarteveen
  • Ruth Meinzen-Dick


In many countries and resource sectors, the state is devolving responsibility for natural resource management responsibility to ``communities'' or local user groups. However, both policymakers and researchers in this area have tended to ignore the implications of gender and other forms of intra-community power differences for the effectiveness and equity of natural resource management. In the irrigation sector, despite the rhetoric on women's participation, a review of evidence from South Asia shows that organizations often exclude women through formal or informal membership rules and practices. Women may have other ways to obtain irrigation services, but even if they are effective, these other informal ways of obtaining irrigation services are typically less secure. As resource management – and rights to resources – are transferred from the state to local organizations, ensuring women's participation is essential for gender equity in control over resources. Greater involvement of women can also strengthen the effectiveness of local organizations by improving women's compliance with rules and maintenance contributions. Further detailed and comparative research is required to identify the major factors that affect women's participation and control over resources, if devolution policies are to be both equitable and sustainable.

Common property Devolution Gender Irrigation Property rights Water users' associations 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margreet Zwarteveen
    • 1
  • Ruth Meinzen-Dick
    • 2
  1. 1.Sub-department of Irrigation and Water EngineeringWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.International Food Policy Research InstituteWashingtonUSA

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