Women’s participation in water governance and reform in Zimbabwe: A case study of four A1 resettlement farms in Mazowe catchment post the fast track land reform and resettlement programme
Rutsate, Elizabeth Lwanda
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It is now a globally acknowledged fact that there exists a human right to water for “basic needs” that allows everyone to enjoy an adequate standard of living that guarantees one the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. What is less known however is what that right means to different people in different contexts especially poor and marginalized rural women in the developing world who use water holistically for multiple purposes that are all aimed at lifting themselves out of the endemic feminized poverty that has been associated with them. In this thesis based on an empirical study conducted on four A1 small scale resettlement farms in Mazowe Catchment I locate different social groups of women on the farms at the intersection of formal and informal norms and institutions that determine whether they are included or excluded from accessing, using and controlling water for personal, domestic, food production and livelihood purposes, from the local to national levels. Situating the international human right to water in a local context; the aim is to interrogate the extent to which this right as conceptualized at international and national levels resonates with how women within these rural communities use water in its multiplicity to ensure general social well being within their households and the community at large. Set against a legal pluralist environment, the extent, to which the different social networks within which different women are embedded impact on their capability to realize the right to water, is also interrogated. Grounded theory research methodologies that encompass the use of in-depth individual interviews with key informants, group interviews and focus group discussions as well as case studies within a catchment study were used to unravel the complex institutional and normative frameworks associated with access to water and participation in its governance. The women’s law approach was used in the research to explore from the women’s different lived experiences, the discrimination they encountered which was intersectional as based on political, economic, social, cultural and other prohibited grounds. The findings show deep seated tensions between customarily informed norms and institutions that entitle rural women to have open access to water for drinking, sanitation, food production and livelihood purposes from common pool resources such as rivers, streams, wetlands and riparian land on one hand and formal IWRM informed laws and policies bent on cost recovery and profit maximization implemented by ZINWA officials on the other. This situation, which happens against unclear and pluralist dispute resolution frameworks that are both formal and informal have the most dire impact on women as the traditionally acknowledged major water users for reproductive and productive purposes. As drawn from the findings made in this study, my key recommendations are that the State; (i) conducts nationwide human rights and Constitution awareness campaigns focusing specifically on rural communities for the eradication of gender based discrimination and gender stereotypes that negatively impact on rural women’s realization of their human right to water and participation in its governance; (ii) adopts in its policies the broader framework of the human right to water for rural women as understood customarily; within the 2013 Zimbabwe Constitution; Article 14 of CEDAW and in accordance with the UNCESCR’s General Comment 15 of 2002; (iii) effectively strengthens and enhances local traditional dispute resolution mechanisms that deal with water conflicts through judicial training and the promotion of traditional environmental conservation methods that are pro-poor.