Wednesday, March 02, 2011

WaterAid: Clean water and empowering women in Northern India

One of the organisations I came across in New York was WaterAid.

Its US website makes it clear that the problem is not just providing wells in developing countries - you also have to ensure that they are maintained.

On that site Becky Straw writes:
Regardless of who is to blame, if one out of three wells are failing – it’s time for a revolution. The international non-profit, WaterAid has an enterprising solution; the non-profit started a business.

Two years ago, WaterAid opened a mechanic training program in the District of Mahoba, where 4,000 wells are broken. They set up a storefront and bought tools, bikes and water quality testing equipment. They trained mechanics ... and they started repairing wells for any village willing to pay.
Among those mechanics were seven women, which has led to the beginnings of a social revolution too. Becky Straw goes on to say:
I met Ram Rati in her village on a cool morning at the crack of dawn. I was instantly energized by her quick wit and smirk of brazen defiance. While other women stood demurely off to our side, faces covered and trying not to interfere, Ram Rati walked around like she was mayor, rattling off stories and beaming with pride.

This culturally conservative region in Northern India generally frowns upon women speaking in public, going outside without a veil or sending girls to school. So, to see a woman like Ram Rati, a spitfire barely five feet tall, riding her bike gallantly into their village is a shock to most people. And then she opens her toolbox and fixes their well.

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