Building on from the previous post, this blog piece will explore how FPE is an appropriate perspective for understanding the ‘micropolitics of control’ for water in Lahore.
Women’s access to water is contingent upon their positions with households and communities more than their direct interaction with a water source. In other words, women are likely to collect water for their families, but their consumption relative to their male counterparts, is much less. In Lahore, 22% of households that fall under Lahore’s Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) do not have piped water supplies (Cooper, 2018) such as the peri-urban area of Badar Colony. Thus residents, often women and children, travel almost 2km to collect drinking water (Babar et al., 2014). To address the absence of a sufficient water supply in the area, the ‘Changa Pani Program’ was introduced – a collaborative effort between the provincial government and local community. The key factor that underpinned the success of this project was that it identified what role women played in the community and mobilised them during the planning and management processes. A ‘women’s water leaders committee’ (WWLC) was formed to discuss women’s concerns and they were then given positions on the Water and Sanitation Community Organization (WASCO) to be able to voice their problems to the men; increasing their social statuses in their local community. Moreover, women were mobilised to encourage the rest of their families to take interest in the project and contribute financially in the construction of the pipelines. Likewise, they also motivated their male members to take part in the manual labour during the installation phase and helped with cost-savings. This resulted in the community covering ~40% of the total costs and having ownership over their communal infrastructure.
(For more details on the project and, check out Searchlight South Asia‘s blogpost)
FPE scholarship encourages a finer look into the everyday experiences with water, which this case study reflected. Bringing women to the forefront of water management can solve issues like equitable access as it overcomes social power relations that women are subjected to. With the construction of the local water supply system, women are no longer burdened and imposed with the responsibility to fetch water and can instead use their time more productively. Furthermore, by challenging traditional power relations in the community itself and placing women in positions of leadership, it has meant that their concerns were taken seriously and overall access to water improved for an urban fringe community.
The ‘Changa Pani’ project identified how women were marginalised and implemented a focussed approach to tackle this. Ultimately this exemplifies how FPE understanding can build upon UPE, and help to create attentive solutions to urban water inequalities. This approach should therefore be adopted across Lahore to improve access, in which urgent action to address the existing stark divide is needed.
Babar, M.W.B., Rashid, A., Wattoo, M.N.A., Norina, J., Muhammad, J. and Munazzah, M. (2014) Community driven low cost strategy to develop sustainable wash services in poor urban area of Lahore Pakistan: a component sharing model case study of Lahore Pakistan. International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies, 7(3), pp.947-960.
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