FIIN feature: Gendered River Basin Institutions: The Chu–Talas Commission in Central Asia

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Jenniver Sehring
Jenniver Sehring

Senior Lecturer in Water Governance and Diplomacy, IHE Delft


This chapter from Gender Dynamics in Transboundary Water Governance: Feminist Perspectives on Water Conflict and Cooperation, sheds light on how gender perceptions and identities are shaping transboundary water governance within the Chu–Talas Commission (CTC), a joint basin organisation established in 2006 by Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic. Building on Feminist Institutionalism, the chapter situates the joint water governance body in its socio-cultural setting and its gender norms, where the professionals practising water diplomacy have learned expectations of appropriate behaviour that impact how they approach water-related challenges. It shows how gendered norms and practices affect men and women differently in terms of access to and performing work on transboundary waters. For example, duty travels lead to water governance perceived as a man’s work, leadership norms are strongly associated with masculinity, and prevalent (aggressive) negotiation styles were disdained by women. Increasing the number of women in an organisation might not necessarily be a sign of more gender equality but might rather reflect the societal status of certain sectors and positions. However, the chapter also shows how women make selected use of cultural, historic, and political incidents of female agency to strategise their own room for manoeuvre in this masculinised field.

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