Tender the gender…

Posted on March 14, 2011

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This is the story of consistent and persistent efforts and strategic envisioning of a women group that lead from grim situation of water and sanitation to pride and livelihood opportunities to the poor tribal villagers in one of the remote district of central India.

The Bhogaikhapa is a tribal village in one of the central province of India that has a population of about 2000. People here are dependent on the forest and land resources for livelihood, and majority of them work as laborer in nearby towns. The water and sanitation situation in the villages was such that one could observe looming water scarcity, heaps of garbage, open defecation areas, haphazard drainage system and communities indulged in un-hygiene practices. A number of water borne diseases like diarrhea, malaria, typhoid, jaundice, etc. were common in the village, resulting in to high morbidity and mortality among women and children. Apart from poor hygiene practices, the villagers were also suffering with water scarcity and availability for drinking and house hold purposes and lesser livelihood opportunities.

A women group called Gram Bharti (http://grambharti.net/) working in the state for last 25 years took the challenge to improve the situation on water and sanitation through awareness generation and water management practices. Mrs. Nabbi Bai Dhrube, the Sarpanch (Head village council), mentions that, “initially everyone was reluctant and not ready to even listen them”. The team members of Gram Bharti started discussing the issue of poor sanitation, hygiene, child and maternal morbidity and mortality, the areas of intervention, which could lead to better health and livelihood opportunities.

After a series of meeting in the village for at least 6 months, a few community leaders were convinced with the idea and started participating in discussion and making others aware about it as well. Finally, the group could convince majority of the families on their idea, which was about making plans for water management, improving the sanitation situation by construction household toilets, developing garbage and soakage pits, practicing water wisely through its multiple use in productive purposes.

They started using urine collected as fertilizer, water from bathroom for toilet flushing and kitchen garden, harvesting water from rooftop, re-use of water for various productive purposes, etc. and growing vegetables for their own and sell them in nearby market. They also formed a women group that used to meet on quarterly basis and work as peer pressure group to involve each house in such activities to get benefited.

The whole process took almost two years to establish and function, and the situation now has changed drastically. Mrs. Kari Bai, a rural frontline worker of government says that, “around my house the waste water used to pound from all neighborhoods, and now I can see the change, as nobody in my family during last one year fell ill, and in the village the percentage of cases of abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, malaria, etc. has drastically come down” She further continues “the women were hesitant earlier, are now actively participating through meetings, they are now outspoken and know about their important role. These women have learned the best use of wastewater”.

The village got national level award from President of India as appreciation and token of financial aid as ‘fully sanitized village’ (called Nirmal Gram Puruskar).

Each family in this village now gets enough seasonal vegetables, flowers, fruits, etc. and they also started selling vegetables to nearby markets. These village women are the role model for neighboring villages and have been recognized as ‘Brand Ambassadors’ in facilitating similar process of water management and sanitation in nearby area.

The village based women group members are in regular touch with the workers at Gram Bharti. And now mo-bilization is going over mo-bile phones…!