Jal Jeevan Mission Gives Women In Rural Jhansi A Shot At Self-Reliance

Young women from Bundelkhand are being trained to test drinking water which safeguards their communities while enhancing livelihoods

Indal Kashyap

Jhansi: Nitu Singh has been working as a water tester and training other women to test drinking water in the Bundelkhand region since 2021.

“Till now we have worked with 50 gram panchayats from the region. The women make around Rs 20 per water test. The income generated through this has improved our individual livelihoods,” the training leader said.

Jal Jeevan Mission is a Central government scheme which aims to provide each household with potable drinking water, with over 2.5 crore families targeted in Uttar Pradesh. So far, 487,955 rural women have been trained in water testing in the state.

The scheme is proving to be a saviour for people of Bundelkhand, not only in terms of providing clean drinking water but also introducing employment-generating opportunities for rural women towards achieving a self-reliant livelihood.

Contaminated water is a breeding ground for diseases, and a source of suffering for many families in the villages of Bundelkhand.

“Diseases and infections had become a frequent part of our livelihoods. We had to spend a lot of money on getting treated for these diseases which were spreading through impure water,” said 18-year-old Rani Chadhar while expressing how families were only a couple of medical bills away from going bankrupt.

However, things have taken a turn for the better with the likes of Rani and her family benefiting on two fronts — water and income security.

“Once I started earning through the water-testing programme, I could save that money and hand it over to my mother. The water testing worked successfully and the spread of diseases stopped. Families had to no longer spend on these kinds of medical expenses,” stated Rani.

“She gives me the money she earns from water testing assignments and we use it for household expenses for the family, and for paying school fees for my children,” informed Rani’s mother who used to travel two kilometres daily to provide drinking water for their house.

Walking on foot while carrying heavy vessels filled with water was a tedious task for her and used to take up most of her day. “Now my mother focuses on the children and the family. I have four sisters and one brother,” Rani added.

Speaking about the water-testing process, Nitu said these water samples undergo 11-odd tests before determining whether they are safe for consumption or not.

The group travels from one village to another, and collects water samples. The quality of water coming from different sources like taps, pipes, tube wells, and wells are tested thoroughly.

According to her, many of the women are well educated. Some even have a master’s degree, yet they are out of jobs.

“This programme has given us a chance to earn a self-reliant, sustainable livelihood,” said Nitu Singh.

(Indal Kashyap is a Uttar Pradesh-based freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)

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