In feminist waters

In Pravah, similar to contexts across India, gender – along with caste, class and age - define everyday dealings with water. 

Men own most of the cultivated land, as well as the water stored underneath it. Generally, men are responsible for everything related to irrigation: watering the crops, constructing and maintaining pipelines, wells and ponds. They spread pesticides, plow the farm and transport the harvest to the market. 

Women on the other hand perform most of the other farming tasks; including seeding, weeding and harvesting and taking care of the livestock. In recent years, some women farmers started to irrigate farms themselves, as men often work full-time outside the village.

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Women are also responsible for fetching water from Sakarbai, cooking, washing clothes, and filling up the jars and buckets from the water ATM or tap when water is delivered. 

For this reason, it is mostly women who navigate water availability and contamination, deciding which water shall be used for which purpose. 

Old women and young women also narrate different stories of their everyday water practices, connecting them to different seasons, farming and domestic work, cropping patterns and cooking habits.

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Men also occupy most of the the village's political spaces, they often take most of the household  decisions, especially those related to managing financial resources and cropping patterns. 

Yet, women are not silent or passive actors. They  find ways to negotiate their positions, influence decision-making processes, organise farming work and form networks and spaces of support and solidarity for and with each other. 

For example, women often organize the farming work collectively to support one another, share responsibility and learn together. 

When at home they are always busy with domestic tasks, including cooking, cleaning, taking care of their children, husband and other relatives. The time in the farm is therefore also a time in which women share stories and create friendships, sharing seeds and recipes, food and ideas.  

Documenting these initiatives is fundamental to give importance to women’s knowledge,  experiences and practices, which challenge  systems of institutionalised patriarchies.  

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Drying grains in Pravah.

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Carrying leaves for the cooking stove, at the end of a day spent working on the farm.

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Packing onions for the market while sharing stories and being together.

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Drying grains in Pravah.

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“Women’s incentive for water management – underlying their agency – is not just related to their resource dependence, but also to social and institutional structures, which do not allow them the same access as men to resource rights, economic opportunities or decision-making. Engendering governance is not merely a technical exercise; increasing the number of women in organizations or political spaces, but about redefining the nature of public space and acknowledging that the private domain – where much gendered socialization takes place – cannot be seen as distinct or separate."

 [Krishna and Kulkarni, 2019: Joy, K. J., & Janakarajan, S. (Eds.). (2018). India’s water futures: Emergent ideas and pathways. Taylor & Francis.]
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