- A landmark amendment in the Sindh Water Management Bill, 2018, aims to empower women farmers in the province by offering them decision-making power in water management.
The Sindh Assembly passed a landmark amendment in the Sindh Water Management Bill, 2018, this week to empower women farmers in the province. This amendment recognizes the role played by women farmers in water management, and aims to increase their involvement in the decision-making process.
The Sindh Water Management (Amendment) Bill, 2018, now guarantees that women have adequate representation in around 45,000 Water Course Associations (WCAs), more than 350 Farmer Organizations (FOs), and 14 Area Water Boards (AWBs) in the province.
While achieving efficient water management is a long battle in Sindh, women have essentially been excluded from this fight because no specific provision or requirement enabled their involvement in this decision-making process.
According to The Third Pole, Water scarcity is a major concern for farmers in rural Sindh. 77% of these farmers are women, who are immensely impacted by the province's irrigation policies and water distribution laws. Hence, women's exclusion from these decision-making platforms is detrimental to the overall health of Sindh's agricultural economy.
Nuzhat Shirin, the Chairperson of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW), also explains that women have an important role to play in Sindh's agriculture sector, starting from the sowing of seeds to the harvesting of crops. However, participation of women has been little to none in water resource management. Nuzhat Shirin hopes that this amendment in the bill will allow inclusion of women in water governance, as reported by The News.
After three years of struggle, the amendment was passed on the 12th of January, 2021, by MPA Rana Ansar. The amendment included the following changes to the bill:
- Amendment to Section 30 of the Bill ensures that “two prominent women [should be] of the AWB command area from a strong farming background in irrigated agriculture and water, preferably a member of Board of Management of any FO”
- Amendment to Section 42 ensures that “two women [should be] of the FO command area having strong farming background in irrigated agriculture and water, provided that one-woman member shall be landless”
- Section 56, subsection (1) was amended to ensure that “in addition to elected members of WCA, the Board of WCA shall consist of two women members preferably sharecroppers of the same water course, where the WCA is formed”
- Amendment to Section 70 includes that “two women members, one shall be prominent woman activist/lawyer/journalist and one shall be prominent woman agriculturist."
While this amendment marks a historic achievement for women farmers and women activists, who have supported this cause, achieving complete inclusiveness in decision-making in the agricultural sector is definitely a long laborious battle, especially in the rural areas of Sindh.