Davidson, C, 2010 - Water and gender in the Middle East: A case study in Bedouin communities of Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.
Water scarcity is a significant and growing issue in the Middle East. While much of the focus on water issues in the Middle East revolves around policy and politics, there is considerable need for the inclusion of social issues, such as gender, in water management (Rathgeber & Motzafi-Haller 2007).
The Dublin Principles and the Millennium Development Goals provide guidance to development worldwide. The third Dublin Principle states that “women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water.” Millennium Development Goal 3 is to “promote gender equality and empower women” and Goal 7, Target 3 is to “halve by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” Together, these international commitments declare the need to address women’s integral role in the provision, protection and management of water, and the overall need to include gender in Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). In the Middle East, the need for evaluating gender in water management is largely applicable in the often marginalised Bedouin communities.
The Bedouin are formerly nomadic or semi-nomadic Arab populations originating throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The tradition of patriarchy in Bedouin communities greatly impacts Bedouin women in the household, community and society as a whole (Abu-Rabia Queder 2007). For her Master’s project, Cameron Davidson is working directly with Bedouin communities on identifying the gender issues related to water management, particularly relating to how these issues are embedded within the social, political, cultural, economic and environmental context of each community. Cameron has established contact and is working with three different Bedouin communities in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.
Through a combination of interviews and desktop research, the project’s aim is to provide a general picture of the water situation of each community, focusing on the role gender plays in water management. The main goal of the project is to survey the water services in the three communities and evaluate the local population’s perceptions of the past and present water situation, focusing on women’s point of view.
The socio-political conditions impacting Bedouin communities in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank vary significantly. Issues, such as the conflict over land in the West Bank and the Israeli and Jordanian governments’ policies on Bedouin communities, impact these communities’ water resources and basic livelihoods. The transboundary component of this project allows for evaluation of the impact of varying socio-political contexts on communities that once existed without defined political borders. It must be noted that the relatively small-scale of this project, as well as the inherent heterogeneity within and among Bedouin communities, means making broad, general conclusions is limited by the project’s scope. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this project aims to identify potential improvements that could be made to water resource management in these communities with an emphasis on expanding upon the knowledge of the Bedouin women as the primary household managers.
Cameron was invited to work on this project as a visiting research intern under the supervision of Dr. Clive Lipchin at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES), located in the Negev desert of southern Israel. AIES is an environmental education and research institute that focuses on cooperatively solving environmental challenges in Israel, Jordan and Palestine. This project allows Cameron to conduct transboundary research, in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, in an international setting. AIES provides an environment where diverse social, economic and political perspectives are present in a cooperative setting, and thus reinforces the learning objectives presented at the IWC during her coursework in 2009.
About Cameron Davidson
Cameron Davidson is an American who received her Bachelor of Sciences degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Cameron will complete her Masters in Integrated Water Management International in June 2010. After completing her Masters, Cameron would like to work on water supply, sanitation and hygiene issues in developing countries.
- Abu-Rabia-Queder, S 2007, ‘The Activism of Bedouin Women: Social and Political Resistance’, HAGAR: Studies in Culture Polity and Identities, vol. 7, pp. 67–84.
- Rathgeber, EM & Motzafi-Haller, P 2007, ‘Engendering Water in the Middle East: Some Preliminary Thoughts‘ in Lipchin et al. (eds), Integrated Water Resources Management and Security in the Middle East, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 237-250.