Celebrating Women Power

Poonam Sewak, Vice President - Safe Water Network India

Water crisis doubles in its intensity for women. From its access to its consumption there are more ways than one that widens the gender equity gap across the world when it comes to water inequality. Data suggests that women around the world spend a collective 200 million hours in fetching water. In addition to which, millions also spend significant amount of time finding a place to go, affecting both, health and harmony of one gender vis-a-vis another. Does it end here? Unfortunately, no.

Although, Indian women constitute nearly half (48.5 percent) of the country’s population; the female labor force participation fell from 36.7 percent in 2005 to 26 percent in 2018. According to the Female Entrepreneurship and Development Index (2015), India performs sub-par with a rank below the 20th percentile in the female entrepreneurship index. Another level of difficulty is faced in absence of conclusive data that is associated with the number of women involved in water related drudgery, the economics of their geographies and demographics. While the image of women walking under the scorching sun to collect water has been stereotypical of water associated drudgery in the rural areas, the situation is not dignified in urban sectors either.

Considering that in countries like ours, where the household responsibilities land on the she- shoulders more than their male counterparts, addressing water related crisis needs to go beyond just providing access to safe water. According to the Google and Bain & Company report, 13.5 to 15.7 million women-owned enterprises make up 20 percent of all the enterprises in the country. When women are involved in decision-making and actively participate in the management of water resources, there are benefits that go beyond their role as water users.

Driven by this thought, at Safe Water Alliance, the collective efforts of small water enterprises have been not only pivotal in providing decentralized solutions for the access of safe water, but also In encouraging women to become part of the system that brings independence and inclusion. Today our women operators through these locally owned and community operated solutions have been able to access safe drinking water in reliable, safe and affordable manner.
Our vision of turning women into entrepreneurs resonate with the government schemes like STEP and Har Ghar Jal Yojana. Through multiple initiatives and programs like iJAL, opportunities for the district’s self-help groups (SHGs), linking SHGs to a new source of income etc, we have been able to strengthen and improve women’s small business skills and generate employment opportunities, to mainstream participation of women and promote female entrepreneurship and livelihoods in the community with access to a safe, affordable, reliable water supply.

Celebrating this ecosystem, Safe Water Enterprise Alliance conducted a multitude of activities under USAID project SEWAH, during the women’s week this year. There were several events organized in Hyderabad and Warangal, Telangana which were also endorsed by the government as local corporates took time from their busy schedules to visit the women’s day events. Besides politicians, the events were attended by GHMC, HMWSSB and MEPMA officials as well.

A significant number of informative sessions encouraged engagement by women from across the verticals. From teachers to SWE operators, the role of women in various fields was recognized, appreciated, felicitated and celebrated at the SWE alliance women’s week.

Women are driving a change in attitude within their communities to adopt best practices of consuming safe water and we are humbled to be party to this growth. At Safe Water Enterprise Alliance, we continue to move forward with a vision that A more gender-balanced world enables economies and communities to thrive.