International Water Management Institute

(Type 2) Research: WRA094

Enhancing Water Supply Systems in Nepal

Research Focus: A gender perspective to understand and enhance the functionality of water supply systems: lessons from Nepal 

Location: Nepal 

Partner CSOs: SNV

March 2022

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), together with the Everest Club, Bagmati Sewa Samaj and SNV, have recently completed their 3.5 year research project under Water for Women in Nepal. The research explored how dynamic gender relationships influence the sustainability and functionality of water systems, with a focus on the effects on collective action. A very big thank you to Manita Raut, Dr Alok Rajouria, Dr Manohara Khadka and all the team for leading this significant research project.

See IWMI's series of Community Participatory Videos from Nepal, part of this project. 

Key Research Questions:

1. How do (evolving) gender relationships affect collective action in the WASH sector in Nepal?

2. To what extent does targeted gender-programming affect the outcomes of WASH interventions in Nepal? 


Research Description:

Sustainable Development Goal 6 calls for ‘safely managed services’, recognising that maintaining the quality of water services post-construction has been a challenge across countries.

Recent research has pointed to the need to better understand power structures and local governance to improve functionality in community-managed systems.  In particular, how gender power dynamics affect the operation and maintenance of water systems is inadequately researched and understood.  This is particularly relevant in Nepal, and other countries, where new patterns of male out-migration are significantly changing gender roles and relationships. 

The proposed research will explore how dynamic gender relationships influence the sustainability and functionality of water systems, with a focus on the effects on collective action.  The project will examine how better gender-programming might improve the outcomes of WASH interventions.

The research will mix conventional and action research methodologies, e.g. surveys, case studies, participatory video, and radio dialogues involving farmers, CSOs and local governments.  It will advance understanding of the interplay between gender, power, and functionality. The videos and dialogues will be used to disseminate research findings and initiate deliberative engagements across governance levels to design policy recommendations.

This project responds to the call for greater attention to power relationships, considering the wider political context in which the functionality of water systems shape or reproduce unequal access to water services. It also addresses a gap in current approaches to women’s empowerment in the development sector, where the focus for research and practices has been on strengthening women’s individual empowerment, with inadequate attention given to collective action.  To address these two gaps, we will investigate the linkages between gender and collective action in the WASH sector.

Expected findings of this research will demonstrate that power relations and gender are highly significant in successful collective action to achieve supply sustainability.  Through capacity building and knowledge transfer and dissemination, this research provides an explicit opportunity to support the bridging of SDG 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) and SDG 6 as a key policy outcome in partnership with the Nepali government.


“Research and development must clearly go hand in hand.  Efforts to improve water service systems in Nepal, especially for rural areas, are a case in point.  Their success depends crucially on collective action, which is influenced in turn by gender and power dynamics.  Two trends in particular – the feminisation of agriculture and federalisation of water structures – require that we gain a better understanding of how these dynamics influence the sustainability and functioning of the country’s water systems.” 

Manita Raut, Research Officer, International Water Management Institute

International Water Management Institute

Photo: Young woman connecting pipe for new water supply in Nepal (SNV Nepal/International Water Management Institute) 

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