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June 17, 2021

Legislation aimed at women’s inclusion in water governance structures being poorly implemented

June 17, 2021

Civil society and women rights activsits have been showing their concerns over the delay in approving the rules of business of the Sindh Water Management (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and said that the provincial irrigation department and the Sindh Irrigation & Drainage Authority (SIDA) have neglected the task of including women in various water governance structures.

The Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Water Management (Amendment) Bill, 2018, on January 12, 2021, recognising the role of women farmers in water management for the first time.

Rana Ansar, a provincial legislator from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), has proposed the bill regarding the inclusion of women in various water governance structures, such as water course associations (WCAs), farmer organisations (FOs), and area water boards (AWDs).

The Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), an independent research and advocacy group, with the help of other rights groups, lobbied and carried out advocacy efforts to have this bill passed by the provincial legislature.

Women rights groups and farmer bodies hailed the approval of the bill from the provincial legislature at that time. An amendment to the bill’s Section 30 that includes “two prominent women of the AWB command area from a strong farming background in irrigated agriculture and water, preferably a member of Board of Management of any FO”.

“Two women [should be] of the FO command area having a strong farming background in irrigated agriculture and water, provided that one-woman member shall be landless,” said the amendment to Section 42.

Also, according to Section 56, subsection (1), “In addition to elected members of WCA, the Board of WCA shall consist of two women members preferably sharecroppers of the same water course, where the WCA is formed.”

An amendment to Section 70 says: “Two women members, one shall be prominent woman activist/ Lawyer/journalist and one shall be prominent woman agriculturist.” However, when it comes to their implementation, the situation has been dismal.

The bill guaranteed women’s representation in various water governance structures -- including around 49,000 WCAs, over 950 FOs, and 14 AWBs -- in the province. “If the act is implemented properly, over 100,000 women will be included in various water governance structures,” said Amjad Baloch, the SPO’s regional coordinator. “It would be considered a revolutionary step for empowering not only women but also farmers and peasants in the water governance decision makings.”

But despite it, the provincial irrigation department and SIDA has been neglecting to include women in these bodies and there is no implementation of it yet. Also, the SPO facilitated the SIDA in the development of rules of business regarding women's inclusion in water course associations, farmer organisations, and area water boards.

However, unfortunately, the SIDA law department has not yet approved the rules of business yet. The Sindh province is bestowed with an irrigation network with 14 main canals and around 49,000 field channels. However, only three AWB on canals and around 3000 WCAs on field channels have been formed yet and women are not included in it,

Sources in the provincial irrigation ministry said that the formulation of rules of bussinesses was delayed because of Ramazan and the current water crisis in the province. “But it will be approved in the upcoming meeting of SIDA,” according to an official in the ministry.