The paper examines the extent, nature, and factors affecting women’s involvement in participatory irrigation institutions of eastern India. Effective participatory water institutions are urgently needed to improve water management in eastern India, and a significant aspect of this is the involvement of women. There is inadequate representation, participation, and involvement of women in most water institutions. From the participatory and social point of view, this is a significant concern. The relevant data are obtained from the states of Assam and Bihar through a focused survey administered to 109 women in 30 water institutions, and a larger farmer-institutional survey covering 510 households and 51 water institutions. The research examines the extent and nature of the involvement of women in these institutions, as well as in farm decision-making, and the factors that prevent or foster their participation. Additionally, it examines the gender congruence in views regarding water institution activities and their performance, and the perceived benefits of formal involvement of women. The results show that their inclusion is very low (except required inclusion in Bihar), and the concerns of women are usually not being taken into account. Women are involved in farming and water management decisions jointly with men but not independently. Findings indicate that the views of women and men differ on many aspects, and so their inclusion is important. Responses indicate that if women participate formally in water user associations, it would enhance their social and economic standing, achieve greater gender balance, expand their awareness of water management, and contribute to better decision-making in the water institutions.
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