In order to help women in this regard, MEI, a Nagpur-based environmental NGO, has initiated steps to involve women in developmental activities regarding provision for safe drinking water & health and hygiene at home.
The NGO’s programme designed for village Kumhari, near Bhandara district in Maharashtra (52km from Nagpur), consists self help groups (SHGs) at village level with seven-eight women members for each SHG. Every group choses a leader called the organiser (mahila sainik) who conduct group meetings and maintain the group’s account.
Initially, the focus of the groups was to collect and save money for safe water availability. Most of the groups started with the motto ‘save two rupees a day’. Every month, the savings were deposited at the post office in a revolving fund account. Every month Rs13,500 was collected in the account. This amount was given as credit to the needy members of the village to procure water or simple sand filtration pots.
The water provision to the family started with 100 houses in the village whose population was around 750 people. The SHG met once a week and decided which family needed support and the targets regarding the amount to be saved. It also framed the rules and regulations regarding loans and the interest rate charged there of. The repayment was on the basis of one rupee a day so as to maintain the account as a revolving funds account. As a result, the families using safe drinking water began saving on their medical bills.
The SHG also began giving money to dig deeper wells to fetch more water during summer. The families prepared water soaking zones where the water was routed and used for gardening. They began developing kitchen gardens with wastewater irrigation system. The women of the house began selling vegetables and earning through this facility. Women now realised how a small saving of Rs2 per day could lead to a drastic change in their lives – because it led them to safe drinking water and recycling of wastewater. At present, 78 families have benefited from the scheme and others are in the process of bettering their lives with MEI’s strong support. The latter is also trying to educate them on water conservation.