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Bringing more than food to the table:

Precipitating meaningful change in gender and social equity-focused participation in trans-boundary

Mekong Delta wetlands management 

        The importance of healthy, functioning wetlands ecosystems in support of rural livelihoods in the Mekong Basin is generally well understood and documented over many years. A less well understood aspect are the conditions and factors that lead to the under-representation of certain social groups in water and wetlands decision-making processes and institutions. The groups most often recognised to be routinely under-represented (both quantitatively and qualitatively), marginalised or excluded from these governance processes have been women, ethnic minorities and the poorer sectors of society.

        This project aims to research the participation of and thus raise the profile of women and other marginalised groups in decision-making platforms for improved wetlands resources management, which ultimately would lead to more socially-equitable water governance outcomes in the transboundary Mekong Delta.

It also aims to improve wetlands management collaboration between and among diverse communities sharing wetlands resources across the porous, land-water border between Cambodia and Vietnam, in part by increasing and diversifying the participation of these traditionally under-represented social groups.

        The general methodological approach will be to employ a Participatory Action Research framework adapted from within human ecology and political ecology disciplines, where the exercise of power and its effects on social relations are key considerations. Identifying the range of actors and institutions involved in present wetlands management will be a key starting point to research. Hence, by its inherent recognition of power differentials between groups, the research approach will be mindful of questions of voice and representation, the existence of multi-level conflicts in a historically sensitive location, that transcend localised conflicts over resource access and rights to water security and livelihoods.

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        In the short to medium terms, the expected outcomes of the research will be to precipitate better awareness of the benefits of improved representation of women and other traditionally marginalised groups within wetlands management institutions, and by extension, wider water governance processes in the Mekong Delta.

   In the longer term, it is anticipated that the study will lead to demonstrable increases in the level of active participation of women and minority groups in these institutions and processes, ideally helping to translate normative policy aims around gender and pro-poor focus goals into practice.

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