According to UNICEF “785 million people today do not have basic access to water.” To relieve this burden in India, Jal Sahelis, or women water warriors, are committed to reviving dried sources of water in Bundelkhand in what is now becoming a nationwide initiative to provide more access to clean water in India.
India’s Water Issues
In India, 91 million people lack access to clean water. Even though India has “18% of the world’s population, but only 4% of its water resources,” making it among the most water-stressed in the world.
Jah Salehi’s formed a volunteer network of more than 1,000 women to restore lost water sources throughout Bundelkhand. They can help with this by collecting rainwater during the June monsoon season and distributing it through dried-up water bodies around their village. As India’s water shortages increase, the women’s efforts provide.
The involvement of Jal Sahelis in many projects also highlights the importance of community-led efforts for sustainable development. The Jal Sahelis program empowers women to take leadership roles in managing and conserving water resources, which not only benefits the environment but also promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in rural areas.
Welthungerlife and Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan helped these women with the organization and training necessary for “water resource planning, management and conservation.” There are currently close to 500 Jal Sahelis who completed the training and are now working. They are always available to help their communities with water issues and are identifiable by their blue saris.
As well as this, they have implemented “shramdan,” which are community donations to help restore ancient ponds and hand pumps, even using government funding to build check dams. The way in which they construct the ponds and dams is by moving boulders and then mixing concrete to form such structures, according to India Times. The Jal Shakti (Water Resources) Ministry of India has commended them for their successful efforts in resolving challenges pertaining to access to water in India.
Addressing Social Issues and Access to Water in India
Not only are Jal Sahelis helping with water issues, but many social changes as well, such as the promotion of human rights and the reduction of inequality. Jal Sahelis are also helping villages of India rediscover knowledge they lost decades earlier when water transformed from a community-managed resource to one administered by India’s government.
By working closely with communities, Jal Sahelis are helping to rediscover and revive traditional practices, which can be more sustainable and effective than modern systems. This can also contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage and identity. Overall, Jal Sahelis are playing a vital role in promoting sustainable water management and empowering communities, while also addressing social issues and reviving traditional knowledge.
– Lauryn Defreitas