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Gender, Class, and Access to Water:Three Cases in a Poor and Crowded Delta


  • Crow, Ben
  • Sultana, Farhana


Water plays a pivotal role in economic activity and in human well-being. Because of the prominence of water in production (primarily for irrigation) and in domestic use (drinking, washing, cooking), conflict over water and the effects of gender-influenced decisions about water may have far-reaching consequences on human well-being, economic growth, and social change. At the same time, social conflicts and social change are shaped and mediated, often in unexpected ways, by the natural conditions in which water occurs. The social relations of water are poorly understood. This article introduces a framework for disaggregating conditions of access to water and uses it to examine three pressing questions in Bangladesh. First, extraction of groundwater for irrigation has made many drinking-water hand pumps run dry. Second, increasing use of groundwater for drinking has been associated with the poisoning of at least 20 million people through naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater. Third, the article examines some of the ways access to water has been changed by the rise of shrimp aquaculture for export. This article highlights new directions for the analysis of interactions among water, class, and gender. The existing literature has tended to focus on the implications of gender analysis for government policy, especially development projects and water resources management, and for women’s organization. In this article we begin to sketch some questions that arise from a concern to understand the broader context of social change.

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  • Crow, Ben & Sultana, Farhana, 2002. "Gender, Class, and Access to Water:Three Cases in a Poor and Crowded Delta," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt8j29f3df, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:glinre:qt8j29f3df

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sen, Gita, 1996. "Gender, markets and states: A selective review and research agenda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 821-829, May.
    2. van Koppen, B., 2000. "From bucket to basin: Managing river basins to alleviate water deprivation," IWMI Books, Reports H025886, International Water Management Institute.
    3. Agarwal, Bina, 1994. "Gender and command over property: A critical gap in economic analysis and policy in South Asia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(10), pages 1455-1478, October.
    4. Bina Agarwal, 1997. "''Bargaining'' and Gender Relations: Within and Beyond the Household," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(1), pages 1-51.
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    1. repec:eee:anture:v:67:y:2017:i:c:p:14-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:wdevel:v:97:y:2017:i:c:p:153-164 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Harris, Leila M., 2008. "Water Rich, Resource Poor: Intersections of Gender, Poverty, and Vulnerability in Newly Irrigated Areas of Southeastern Turkey," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2643-2662, December.
    4. Marcia Nation, 2010. "Understanding women’s participation in irrigated agriculture: a case study from Senegal," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(2), pages 163-176, June.

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