Water in Crisis - Women in India

Alexandra Barton, Guest Writer

Women in India are considered their family's provider for an increasingly valuable material: water. Women are in charge of gathering water every day for use in their homes and on their land. A day's supply of water can amount to multiple trips to a local well for women. While rainfall has remained consistent, India has overused its water, forcing its residents to search beyond their homes for the precious liquid. Indian women must travel longer to find new sources of water, and this affects their lives daily.

Collecting and carrying water are women's responsibilities in India. Rural Indian men primarily apply water to agriculture. However, the women utilize the resource for various aspects of their duties. Their domestic uses include cooking and cleaning, where uncontaminated water is a necessity. In addition, raising children requires nourishing and sanitary water. Women are also key participants in farming. For their reliance on water, Indian women must exhaust ample time and health to supply their needs.

Indian women can take up to six trips a day to gather and transport water. These walks in rural regions can average ten miles a day,carrying up to fifteen liters every trip. The women load jars or buckets on their heads to carry water. The pressure, added with the distance to water sources, creates back, feet, and posture problems. The heat increases their exhaustion, and the chore itself takes away much needed time for other duties. It is a great loss for these women to spend their days fetching water; they are removed from being able to make an income, better care for their children, or in a younger girl's circumstance, be able to get a proper education.

It is common for girls in rural India to drop out of school, so as to help carry out the burden of moving water. Girls as young as ten contribute to household tasks. Eventually, they miss classes and lag behind enough in school to abandon their education. Another basis for their low attendance is due to a lack of sanitation at their schools. Once a girl starts menstruation , it is very difficult and embarrassing for her to properly take care of herself, where a private toilet may not be available to her. She also risks dangers of violence when exposed during that time, as Indian women have been assaulted while relieving themselves out in public areas.

Indian women are at a higher risk for infections due to their frequent contact with unsanitary water. Trachoma, a water-washed disease that can lead to blindness, is transmitted through contaminated water where women gather. Women and girls collecting water are also susceptible to diarrhea, hepatitis A, and leptospirosis, a bacterial infection from water that is tainted by animal urine.

Indian women have more duties than just retrieving water, though that chore is the most time consuming. They help raise livestock and young animals, where part of collected water is used as well. Indian women participate in agricultural activities such as plowing and weeding, directing just as much work in to farming as men. Women may try to earn income through small work with textiles or gum collecting, if they are lucky to find the extra time. However, the majority of Indian women do not have the time away from gathering water to further support their families in this way.

A woman of rural India confronts serious complications as the main person accountable for water. The health of her family and herself is at risk, her education is often neglected, and her own opportunities are lost because of her long, daily tasks. As a result, the total family is harmed.

One example of The Water Project's work in India is the well built for the Eva Marie Girl's School. The well, which distributes water to taps within the school, services over 1,500 girls. Their access to clean water gives the schoolgirls freedom to learn, instead of leaving school to find water elsewhere.