Water Governance
Community Alliances in Water Resource Management

Three-fifths of the 4.4 billion people in the developing world lack access to basic sanitation and almost a third have no access to clean water. “Lack of ownership by communities is the prime reason for failure” acknowledge, local government officials.

“Access to safe water is closely linked to promoting grassroots democracy”. Improvement in access and quality of water and sanitation services is closely linked to developing community led water resource management strategies.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog SSP a social sector NGO supports rural communities in a water governance approach that supports local community and local government partnership model for effective management of water and sanitation thereby seizing the opportunities provided by the county’s water sector reforms policy.

Community management process

In 450 villages in rural India, community management strategy is emerging through self-initiatives of local governments and communities working together. Key to this strategy are women’s self help groups who are empowered to facilitate community involvement as a result of bringing in women’s priorities into planning.

Establish community level forums and institutions for determining priorities
Bring women into the center of planning and management
Transform the supply led perspective to water resource management
Use gender sensitive and friendly tools for assessment and monitoring
Promote low cost and effective technology and design options
Build capacities and skills for operation and maintenance
Strengthen decentralized mechanisms through forging resource linkages
Develop community planning and monitoring tools

The Gram Panchayat or local governments and communities are supported by SSP to identify their priorities in resource management, service delivery and environmental sanitation, through participatory planning. Community capacities are built to articulate and choose options for water management.

The best practice scaling up is done through learning exchanges and information campaigns. SSP facilitates women’s groups and other networks to exchange innovations. It has resulted in pay offs - pool of skilled persons, better operation and maintenance, improved tax collection, continued involvement of women’s groups in monitoring water and sanitation facilities and institutions with a sense of ownership, confidence and negotiation skills.

Reversing Roles

Women are involved as planners and managers rather than as beneficiaries or users.

Women’s groups gained recognition in their role as problem solvers only after they were organized and their capacities built to work towards solutions.

Women who were the last to be consulted, earlier, now led community efforts to secure water. Initiatives were taken by women’s groups to address gender priorities, lobbying the Gram Panchayat, raising water-related issues and disputes in Gram Sabhas or village assemblies and advocating for and organizing Mahila Gram Sabhas as a strategic forum to advance women’s priorities

Making use of the water sector reform opportunity SSP facilitates communities in developing holistic plans for water resource management, environmental sanitation on waste disposal, wastewater management, school sanitation, source protection etc. Pilot projects involving community planning, management, operation and maintenance are at the core of SSP’s involvement in the multi-district Jalswarajya World Bank supported project. Taking from this, a community manual for participating communities is under progress. Similarly, annually, SSP facilitates over 800 villages to gain information and participate in the clean village campaign. On demand from Gram Panchayats, SSP provides technical options, training support and community financing initiatives led by women’s federations.

Taking lessons from demonstration sites, SSP advocates for policy support for promoting community led alliances in water and sanitation.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog (self- education for empowerment) seeks to bring women and communities of the poor from the margin to the mainstream of development processes. SSP is located in Mumbai, with district resource teams that partner with grassroots women’s groups and local self-governments across the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Today, SSP partners with over 1,690 self-help groups with 22,507 women members building capacities for peer exchanges, ICT, networking, advocacy and partnerships on savings and credit, livelihood options, local governance at grassroots, participatory monitoring of basic services, community led water and sanitation and disasters linked to development.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog, INDIA
Tel.: +91-22-23434730, 28264511 Tel/Fax: +91-22-28223139
Email: [email protected] Website: www.sspindia.org