Women and Water: Gender, Privatization, and Water Rights in Latin America
Canales, Paola Jahzel
WOMEN AND WATER: GENDER, PRIVATIZATION, AND WATER RIGHTS INLATIN AMERICAPaola J. Canales, B.A.MALS Mentor: Joseph Palacios, Ph.D.ABSTRACTWater is a vital natural resource and a human right. When water is not accessible and is unaffordable--as it often occurs during privatization--women experience the biggest impact. In 1992 at the Dublin Conference on Water and the Environment, four principles were adopted, in which one focused its attention on women and their role in the provision, management and safe guarding of water. This principle recognizes an important reality, which is that women are and have been central to water management. However, integrating a gendered perspective to water management--although crucial for sustainable development--has not been successfully implemented. The Dublin Conference declared water should be recognized as an economic good instead of a common good. Interestingly, in July 2010 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the human right to water; however, how it has been implemented, negotiated and experienced has remained a challenge, given water's new economic value. Elaborating on this concept and examining the world's fresh water as a human right and not a source for commercial profit, through this thesis, I will attempt to argue that water should be controlled by the citizens and nongovernmental organizations and not by private corporations.In addition I will strongly support the argument that women are already major components of water management and are most affected by water scarcity, and therefore a gendered perspective is necessary in creating successful water resource management solutions. Secondly, I will contend that water is a human right and that it should be managed by the citizens and nongovernmental organizations, not private corporations in order for it to be more accessible to women and other vulnerable communities, like the poor. First, as a result of the arguments I mentioned, the thesis will begin with an introduction of the foundational issues surrounding water and its critical state. Particularly, I will lay out an analysis of the water problem being faced around the globe and in the Latin American region.In addition, I will illustrate issues of water supply, sanitation, and hygiene to demonstrate the daunting statistics that many in developing countries in are experiencing due to water scarcity and lack of access to clean water. I will also introduce how women are impacted and why they haven't been fully integrated into water management solutions; along with specifics of internationaltreaties such as the Dublin Principles, the Kyoto Declaration and the United Nations General Assembly's 2010 recognition of the human right to water. I will briefly discuss the controversies behind the right to water, as I will discuss this issue in more depth in Chapter 3.Once the water problem's impact is established, I will narrow the thesis' focus on both women and the region of Latin America. Specifically, I will provide an analysis of the relationship between gender, women, and water in Latin America. Through this analysis, I will then have an examined platform of the two foundational3 components of the thesis: women and water and the critical need that exists in integrating gender into sustainable water solutions.Secondly, I will argue that if the United Nations General Assembly'sacknowledgement of the human right to water is to become effective, water should be managed by its citizens and NGOs, not private corporations, as this will allow for there to be water democracy. In this third section of the thesis, I will focus upon the risks involved when delegating control of a life-sustaining resource, such as water, to for profit companies. In this section of the thesis I will expand the issue of water privatization with supporting literature which focuses their attention on the disparity that is created by water privatization and specifically, how this disparity affects women the most.Additionally, I will illustrate the issues of how privatization emerged as a preferred method, along with the failures that privatization has perpetuated in developing nations of Latin America and their reactions to reform. To illustrate the experiences of Latin American women and water privatization, I will feature two country analyses; Mexico and Bolivia. I will first showcase the experiences of Mexico, to aim light to how women have been involved in water rights, natural resource management and their active role in attempting to have access to fresh clean water. Second, through outlining Bolivia's infamous water war, I will show the disparities that privatization has created and the political and cultural impact that it had in this country along with the long-term effects and continuous battles. I have selected these two countries as sample studies due to their environmental vulnerability to water crises; and specifically, due to the important role women have led in the fight for water rights; and how water privatization has impacted these two nations. Through these studies, I will add to the thesis' argument that a gendered perspective is necessary in crafting successful water resource management solutions; while also illustrating and outlining how privatization perpetuates gender inequality and disenfranchises water rights in Latin American countries.In the final section of the thesis I will first develop recommendations on how to integrate key stakeholders, such as women into critical sustainable water policy solutions, and how this will allow and enable the possibility for a gendered perspective of water management; and address the possible alternatives to water privatization and why these are critical in sustainable water development. Secondly, I will suggest that commitments to gender equality be officially integrated into future water discussions atthe United Nations, environmental conferences, and global organizations--not just through lip-service, but through modes of monitoring and evaluation in order to effectively implement and see impact within the water sector. Lastly, I will develop a final conclusion which will provide an overall analysis of the thesis' argument onintegrating women in water resource management solutions, and the importance in viewing water as a human right so those with the highest stake and who are most impacted, have a say in its management, such as its users and citizens, and NGOs, notprivate corporations.
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