The people of Chikhaldara region, especially the tribal women and children, have benefitted vastly from ‘The Water Initiative’ program. Water For People India has provided water connections to households as well as Anganwadi Center, Zilla Parishad and Ashram schools in 36 villages. The villagers, especially women and children, now get enough time as they do not have to tread miles to fetch water. Children now get safe and clean drinking water in their schools along with sanitation facilities. This has also solved the problem of open defecation to a great extent and the surroundings around the school are now clean. They can now concentrate on their overall school activities. The work done by Water For People India is highly appreciated by everyone in the district.
Ghatdurlabhpur with 68 households is one of the 24 villages in Chandrapur panchayat. It had achieved open defecation free status in 2019. But the village was not without its share of problems. Caste-division is predominant in the region. 31 of the total 68 households were barred from using the primary water sources for belonging to scheduled caste. Considering the apathy of the villagers and caste system, Water For People India had chosen these 31 households as the priority benefactors of their mini piped water supply scheme. The poverty-stricken families belonging to SC/ST communities had been leading a hard life, even for a basic need like water. Now we can say that everyone has water and sanitation in this village. With 1071 IHHLs constructed in 2019, we achieved Nirmal Gram (clean village), now with the piped water supply, we have become Sundor Gram (beautiful village).
When I first came to this village, after marriage, I was appalled by the lack of water and basic sanitation facilities. I had to tread 2 km every day, just to fetch enough water for our daily needs. We didn’t even have a latrine in my house until 2018. Things got much worse post my husband’s death. I had to sustain by working in fields and running a small shop, with a meagre income. The only good thing in my life was Jyotsana, my niece who would visit me often. But even those visits dwindled due to the deplorable water situation in my village. When Water For People India took the initiative of providing piped water to households, it was nothing short of a blessing. I was present during the first testing of the system. Words fail me. I can’t explain the experience. Now, Jyotsana will visit me again. Little did I realise that water was such a pull factor. Paani nahi to kuch nahi (water is everything).
It has been 10 years since I got married and moved here. That day onwards, I didn’t have a single night of proper sleep for a very long time. I needed to make midnight treks to the village borewell to fetch water for the next day. Life had become a long unending night. Every day was a punishing 2 km trek through dirt and dry bush. I used to fill 10 litres in steel vessels in one trip and haul it back home on foot. Sometimes this meant missing out on household chores. Now with a household tap connection, I save enough time for attending to my family needs. Not to mention, ab neend bahut achi aati hain (I can sleep peacefully now).
In 2012, I built a toilet at our home. But it was nothing more than a defunct property since there was no water supply. Reluctantly, our family of seven had to resort to open defecation. But things changed two years ago when we received a dedicated water supply at home. Now all of us use the toilet at home with dignity. My family and I are glad to have a fully functional toilet of our own. We feel proud to be a part of a mission to end the stigma and scourge of defecating in the open.
I had my first period in Class-VII. It had since become a monthly nightmare. Mostly because it meant having to stay at home, missing our classes. Though we had a girl’s common room, we were uncertain where to drop our used sanitary pads. Some of us even took them home in their bags. It was so annoying. Thanks to Water For People India, we had an incinerator installed at our school. Now, we feel comfortable with a place to dispose of our sanitary pads.
Even before becoming a Jalabandhu, I used to advocate for important social issues with the local government or leading self-help groups. When Water For People India started recruiting Jalabandhus in my village, I was eager to join the cadre of the mobile hand pump mechanics. Being a married woman with children did not deter me from taking on a ‘man’s job’. After completing the initial training, I received a set of handpump repair tools, promotional materials such as banners and flexes from Water For People India. I was armed and ready to start. I reached out to other Jalabandhus and recruited local youth to form a team to respond to repair and maintenance services. I also helped mobilize the local communities through water and hygiene awareness camps and encouraged them to form WUCs. I believe it’s your passion and dedication towards community development that drives you to success.
The Digambarpur region was characterized by severe groundwater depletion. The water level ran low around the year, but the situation worsened exponentially during summer when the handpumps ran dry, leaving the community without safe, clean water. People were forced to use pond water for cleaning and bathing purposes. This posed a health risk for the entire community. In 2015, when Water For People India visited the village and approached me with a proposal for a household piped water supply system, I felt like my wish was granted. The scheme proposed a first-of-its-kind metering system that would charge families for the water they used, necessary for long-term sustainability. In 2018, Digambarpur won the award for Best Gram Panchayat out of the 250,000 GPs in India due to the determination of the people to be a part of something bigger, something extraordinary.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation constructed a community toilet in Sick Line 8 years ago, but people did not maintain the toilet block properly. Consequently, we were forced to defecate in the open beside the railway tracks or near the pond. This not only polluted the pond water but also posed health risk due to snakes, piled up slush and dung. Finally, Water For People India in 2018 renovated the community toilet. After the construction of the toilet, our mothers and sisters are living a life with dignity. We don’t need to defecate in the open anymore. Water is available 24×7 with separate enclosures for both male and female. The community members utilise the toilet facilities and keep it squeaky clean. Due to support from Water For People India, we feel worthy to move on in our lives. No words are enough to express our gratitude. I take pride in my new role as a member of the WATSAN committee for maintaining the toilet block.
I thought a toilet inside my home would bring bad luck to me and my entire family. I would eat less food and hold my bowels throughout the day, leading to gastritis, uneasiness and other stomach related diseases. Not to mention, building a toilet takes a lot of work and money. In 2016, field facilitators from Water For People India visited our village to create awareness on the importance and benefits of using a toilet. They mobilized the entire community in the ward through street plays and interpersonal communication and cleared our misconceptions regarding the toilet cost and space, government incentives and the support provided by Panchayati Raj Institutions. We women no more worry about going out to defecate. Our lives have been hugely impacted and our health has improved. I feel more confident, energetic and happy now.