Democratization, good governance, sustainable use and broadened access to resources are concerns that have informed land and water reforms in Africa. Despite frequent references to rights-based approaches to development in general, empirical research iden tify a lacking appreciation of women's water needs and uses and their right to have a say in institutions governing access. The aim of the project is to lay an empirical and legal foundation for appropriate frameworks and strategies for inclusion of the h uman rights and gender equality dimension in water governance. It combines empirical research of water uses and management on the ground with the study of laws and policies developed at international and national level in four African countries.Within an interdisciplinary framework it seeks an understanding of the outcome of water governance processes with a view to how human rights are defined, mobilized, transformed or resisted by different actors, such as governments, donors and NGO's. A key question i s whether and under what conditions decentralized water governance systems facilitates the inclusion and protection of women's water rights. Cases from Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe sheds light on these processes through the lens of women's par ticipation as both a tool to ensure that gendered uses of water are considered, and as part of the overall right to participation in decision-making. The research teams will collect and synthesize field-evidence on three related themes: the gendered natur e of access to and use of water, the effects of women's participation towards including these in decision/policy-making, and the conditions for women's participation in local institutions.The case studies will reflect how women negotiate their position as water users and decision makers under differing political and legal contexts, the degree of government commitment through incorporation of human rights, scale of donor influence, strength of women's organizations.