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Gender justice and public water for all: Insights from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Abstract: 

This study maps gender-water relations and unearths women’s struggles for access to clean and safe water in Korail, one of the largest informal settlements in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Women reveal how water scarcity and limited decision-making power increase their daily physical workloads, deepen their emotional strain and bear high opportunity costs, resulting in recurring sickness, limited educational or employment attainment, and stagnant social mobility.

Photo: Farhana SultanaThe large majority of women surveyed in Korail desire public water because it holds the promise of access for all at a more affordable cost. Also, they see public access as a way to gain citizenship rights and to redress injustices in the urban fabric that are reinforced by inequitable water provision. The research also unveils important class inequalities among women that need to be addressed in order to build a truly equitable, sustainable and accountable public system.

Views articulated by women from Korail slum weave together a narrative of water justice, an ethic of collective need, and a desire for community-wide access to a public good. The study underscores the importance of questioning local power hierarchies by integrating a gendered perspective in debates on alternatives to privatization of water services.

Author(s): 
Farhana Sultana, Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Sarah Miraglia
Publication Information: 
Occasional Paper No. 18
Publication Date: 
2013
Publication Type: 
Occasional Paper