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Innovative water wheels ease women’s load in Madhya Pradesh

In parched villages of Bundelkhand, water crisis is a major issue and women have to face a lot of difficulties in fetching water from places afar.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2017 07:19 IST
Shruti Tomar
A woman uses a “water wheel”- a drum that doubles up as a wheel, attached to two handles- to take water home in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district.
A woman uses a “water wheel”- a drum that doubles up as a wheel, attached to two handles- to take water home in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district.(Mujeeb Faruqui/HT Photo)

Vimla Yadav, 54, would walk miles every day, headloading gallons of water for her family members and the school where she teaches. In her family, the task is almost exclusively her responsibility, just as it is for women in most MP villages .

But a year ago, that load lifted for many of these women.

Respite is in the form of a drum that doubles up as a wheel, attached to two handles. This ‘Water Wheel’ holds 45 litres, and is quietly changing the lives of hundreds of women who were previously exposed to a number of physical issues that come with lifting heavy loads every day.

“In parched villages of Bundelkhand, water crisis is a major issue and women have to face a lot of difficulties in fetching water from places afar,” said Yadav.

The drums were distributed to women in villages of half a dozen districts by an NGO — Shaktishali Mahila Sangathan — with the help of a private bank.

“We conducted a survey of daily routine of about 500 women of 17 districts of MP. We found that fetching water from distant places not only wastes at least 4-5 hours of a woman, but also impacts their well-being,” said Ravi Goyal, the NGO’s convener.

According to their study, nine of 10 women complained of either headache, backache or gynaecological problems.

“We tried to find a solution to this problem and came to know about the Water Wheel. A drum costs Rs 2,500 and it is not possible for us to provide it free of cost so we contacted a private bank and it was ready to bear 90% of the cost under its CSR scheme. We charge 10% of cost, ₹250, from the villagers so that they treat it as their property and use it properly,” said Goyal.

The wheel has set off a circle of change. “Earlier, hardly any male member of a family helped carry the heavy utensils and earthen pots to bring water as they believe fetching water is a woman’s job. But this wheel has now changed their mindset,” said Meena Kushwaha, 32, a resident of Patharihaweli village.

Not just the men, even children would wait enthusiastically for a chance to wheel the drum around to fetch water.

“We were shy initially, but now fetching is more like running a wheel and we enjoy it. My wife is also happy with the help she is getting from me,” said Ramkumar Yadav of Sagoni.

“I don’t remember a single day when I didn’t feel pain in my body as I fetched water from at least 1 kilometre away,” said 60-year-old Phoolbai Kushwaha. “But my health has improved now.”

Former chief medical and health officer Dr Veena Sinha said pain is common among women in such villages. “Many a times, women have complained of uterine prolapse. Carrying heavy loads can also cause female reproductive organs and the intestine to descend. Innovations like the Water Wheel will surely improve the health of women,” she said.