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Gender Relations and Access to Water: What We Want to Know About Social Relations and Women's Time Allocation


Inadequate access to safe water has severe consequences for health and livelihood. More than one billion people do not have access to safe water. This paper addresses three questions: 1) How could a focus on social relations illuminate access to water? 2) Is there statistical evidence of a water-poverty connection? 3) How could time allocation studies improve our understanding of access to water? First, evidence suggests that in much of the rural global South, gender relations in particular mediate the social relations of water in numerous, interconnecting ways. Analysis of gender relations could then improve our understanding of the multiple connections among poverty, the position of women and access to water. Second, statistical evidence from the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report 2000 and from the World Development Report 2000 indicates that there is a correlation between lack of access to water and material poverty. When people lack access to water and material resources, they are unable to realize their own hopes for life. Third, in order to improve our understanding of how people in the global South obtain water, future studies will need to determine precisely who collects and manages water for various uses, how much time water collection consumes, and the quality of water available to each user.

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