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Samyukt Mahila Samiti (SMS): powerful institutional tool to make women prominent in the watershed development

Although women’s significant role in natural resource management is widely acknowledged in watershed development programmes in India, the discussion rarely goes beyond the formation of self-help groups (SHG) and conventional credit and saving activities. This paper presents five case studies of Samyukt Mahila Samiti (SMS), an institutional policy tool initiated by the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) to actively involve women in watershed development by providing them a space to mobilise and unite for rural development. The SMS is an apex body of women’s SHGs, which generally consist of 15-20 women who come together to organise savings and credit activities. The paper argues that SMS should be integrated as an institutional tool into the nationwide integrated watershed management programme (IWMP) for making women prominent in watershed development and management in India.