Prescribing Gender Equity?
The Case of the Tukucha Nala
Irrigation System, Central Nepal
PRANITA BHUSHAN UDAS
This chapter discusses the potential of law to contribute to progressive social change in water management by looking at legal attempts to improve the gender balance in water users' associations (WUAs) in Nepal. The gap between women's responsibilities in irrigation and their voice in local irrigation management organizations is well documented, in Nepal as well as elsewhere. Existence of this gap is often seen as an indicator of gender inequity, reflecting wider power imbalances between men and women. In Nepal, the need for bridging this gap has been realized in the last decades on grounds of efficiency, equity, and sustainability. More recently, participation of women in resource management organizations is also linked to concerns of democracy and justice. In recognition of these concerns, the government of Nepal has incorporated in its policies and laws explicit rules and measures aimed at improving the gender balance in WUAs. Nepal's eighth five-years plan first mentioned the need to promote women's participation in agricultural and forest cooperatives. Partly reflecting the intentions of the five-years plan, the irrigation policy of 1992 included a provision to the effect that executive committees of WUAs should have at least 20 percent female members (HMG/MWR 1992). The Irrigation Regulation of 2000 finally made women's representation in executive committees of WUAs mandatory by statutory law. It stipulates the compulsory presence of at least two women members in executive committees of at most nine members.
Through the example of a WUA in the Tukucha Nala irrigation system, this chapter explores the effects of these quota rules on actual participation of women in decision making. It looks at how national policies are used and how they receive meaning in the actual practices and negotiations of engineers, project staff, and water users at different levels of bureaucratic planning and project implementation. How are rights on paper or categorical rights turned