Transforming time into money using water: A participatory study of economics and gender in rural India
When water supply improvements are coupled with opportunity to create income through micro–enterprises, time released from water collection is converted into income earned. This brings several benefits: reduced drudgery, higher household income, and, consequently, greater women’s empowerment through changing gender relations within the household. This article documents the performance of one such scheme in Banaskantha District in the state of Gujarat in India, one of poorest districts in the state and the country. Here, due to the efforts of the Self–Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), an Indian NGO, poor women are reaping the social and economic benefits of a government–run regional piped water supply scheme, a project funded by Dutch bilateral aid, focusing on women’s development. If government policy–makers took the cue and formulated programmes and schemes that combined these two aspects, viz., actions that release time for rural women from daily chores (e.g., collecting water, fuel wood and fodder)and opportunities for sustainable micro–enterprises to convert time saved into income, this could become a reliable route out of rural poverty into gender–sensitive sustainable development.
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