It is early morning and 13-year-old Saraswati is getting ready for school in Padhariya village. Her aunt, Samli Bai, is helping her with her hair.
Sitting on the veranda, they are both chatting, almost as though there is no worry in their lives.
“Tap connections in our house have resolved several issues. Earlier, I used to fill water from a hand pump before going to school. Filling two utensils in two rounds took an hour as there are long queues in the mornings. It was too heavy to carry and there were days when I used to be late for school,” explains Saraswati.
Padhariya is a small village located in the district of Dindori in Madhya Pradesh. Almost all the families in the village belong to an Adivasi tribe called Gond, one of the most ancient tribes in India. Today, these tribes live in small villages and they are dependent on subsistence farming.
Access to clean water and decent toilets in these confined settlements is an urgent need given the high incidence of water-related illnesses.
Till last year, people in this village were suffering from acute water crisis due to the shortage of a water source in the community. Primarily, the water source for the entire community was an open well and as it was just one water source, there were long queues and an everyday struggle for people to fetch water.
As the primary occupation for people in the village is farming, spending few hours daily to fetch water was troublesome.
Moreover, the entire burden of fetching water was on women and children, especially adolescent girls.
Saraswati’s life changed the day she got a tap and a toilet in her house. Studying in class 7, she has many responsibilities to take care of like washing utensils, cleaning and cooking as her parents work on the farm for almost the entire day.
“Earlier, I also had to fill water in the evening and hardly got time to study. As the village had limited number of hand pumps, there were always queues in the peak morning and evening hours,” she adds.
Today, with no struggle of standing in long queues to collect water, Saraswati dedicates her spare time to her studies and as she wants to be a teacher one day!
WaterAid India, along with the help of local partner National Institute of Women Child & Youth Development (NIWCYD), intervened in 2014 with an objective to ensure access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation. Post intervention, a series of meetings were conducted to make the community aware of the harmful effects of using an open source of drinking water and defecating in the open.
With support from the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), a mapping of water sources was conducted to make the best use of the existing resources to ensure water security for the community. In terms of the community, an operations and maintenance committee was formed to deal with day-to-day issues arising with the pipe water supply. As a result, today each house in the community is connected to the pipe supply. The committee members ensure regular water supply of 30 minutes in the morning and evening respectively. Things have changed for the community as each household now has a tap.
As a result of the awareness drive in the village, Saraswati’s family – like several others – got a toilet in their house last year. She says, “All members of my family use it. I am very happy with it. Earlier, we used to go out in the open but there were many issues, like it would be all dirty in the monsoons. I am also scared of ghosts after dark so had to take my mother along.”
35-year-old, Samli has been living in this village for almost two decades now.
“Water supply in each house has proved to be a boon. The water is clean and we can use it for everything — cooking, washing, and cleaning,” explains Samli. “Life has changed tremendously. Now I can take care of collecting water, and don’t have to disturb the kids in the morning.”
“The toilet is also a huge relief. It was very difficult going out in the open, especially when you have grown up girls to take care of. There were often cases of harassment reported by girls and attack by dogs while defecating in the open.”
In India, 157 million people are still living without basic access to water while 734 million are living without access to sanitation. These inequalities hold children back from the healthy childhood they deserve, the education they need, and the chance to lead a normal life which allows them to turn their dreams into reality.
Join us in our campaign Stop #PaaniPeKabaddi and share similar stories on the struggle for water. Through this campaign, WaterAid India is spreading awareness that access to clean drinking water is still a distant reality for millions of people in our country!