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Gender-inclusive water governance and women’s resilience to drought shocks: A randomized policy experiment in rural India

Institutions & Governance India
Policy Context

India is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, with over 75 percent of its districts considered “hotspots of extreme climate events” (Mohanty 2020). In particular, the increased frequency and intensity of drought is one of climate change’s most dire consequences in India (World Bank 2023). Overall, existing research suggests that drought’s increased intensity and frequency in India will entrench existing gender inequalities.

However, we do not yet know what role the way that water resources are governed plays in conditioning the impact of drought on gender inequality in rural India. Some scholars suggest that when women are included in water governance, this has the potential to increase women’s resilience to drought shocks.

This project will evaluate a policy experiment in rural India to investigate such a possibility. Since 2005, the Indian state of Maharashtra has been the only state to provide randomized quotas for women in local water governance institutions known as water user associations. Concretely, this means that thousands of women in this extremely drought-vulnerable, agriculture-dependent state have been formally included in decision-making regarding water management and distribution.

Alyssa’s project asks, “can women’s inclusion in water governance institutions allow them to adapt to droughts more effectively, reducing their vulnerability to the climate crisis?”

Study Design

The random nature of Maharashtra’s water governance policy provides Alyssa with an opportunity to causally link water governance with gender issues. Using CEGA funds, Alyssa will: 1) Prepare a micro-level survey of women’s wellbeing with respect to water and drought shocks. 2) Collect quantitative survey data across a predefined sample (total N=300 villages, 150 which have gender quotas, and 150 without). And 3) conduct qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with women in drought-prone areas, with/without representation in water governance institutions.

Results and Policy Lessons



2024 — 2025

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